Calling it quits after 4 years...here's my wedding photography experience

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by greg_burnett, Oct 3, 2013.

  1. Hi All,
    The purpose of this post is to let you know what my experience as a wedding photographer was like and what could be learned from it.
    I know there are several posts like this, here’s mine.
    I found photography in high school, took classes there and in college with a film SLR…did the dark room thing. I loved it. I realized that a better career path would probably start with a degree in business, which would still be helpful if I decided to pursue photography.
    I enjoyed taking pictures of boring everyday things in creative ways as well as more exciting things, like motorsports. I knew that shooting a wedding would blend those two in a way, high paced and creative. It would also be a massive challenge and force me to step up my game, fast. It would force me to learn a lot, think on my feet, and get familiar with an aspect of photography that many photographers are smart enough to avoid like the plague.
    Knowing that I lacked the skill and experience to shoot a wedding on my own, I decided to find a studio that wanted to use me as a second shooter. I finally found one-bonus, they paid me! I learned a lot and had a great time. I did better than I expected, though I knew that it wasn’t nearly as stressful as it would be had I been on my own. I only shot 2 weddings for them before I graduated with a degree in Finance, a couple weeks later my wife was laid off from a job in the housing industry (end of 2008). So, we packed up and moved from CA to CO where we knew a total of 2 adults.
    Living in a basement underneath a woman wearing hard shoes and two toddlers slamming toys around wasn’t exactly a good long term living arrangement. Though, as it was 2009, it wasn’t the greatest time to find a job. So, I thought, I would try to make my own. I started my own photography business in 2009. I only wanted to do weddings and I had only 2 under my belt as an assistant. Not much of a portfolio to work with, but I had little choice. I spent hundreds…or thousands of hours researching the competition, putting a contract together, setting pricing (based on a line graph of my local competition-skill vs price), building a website, practicing, consulting with an accountant, the SBA, a lawyer, fellow photographers and business owners. I read books, websites, blogs, and watched webinars. I tried to build connections with other photographers so that I could work with them, no luck. Most wouldn’t even respond to an offer for free help. I responded to craigslist ads too, heard back on almost none. My wife visited with dozens of local vendors, showing my album, handing out cards, and trying to get me on their preferred vendor list. I advertised on the Knot, craigslist, tried to do a Groupon too.
    This basically all failed to work because I had, essentially, zero experience and zero personal network in my area. I couldn’t shoot for friends, family, college buddies, or work associates…I had none.
    I got my first gig in 2011 through a Knot deal, sort of like a Groupon. It was an engagement shoot that went very well. Both the couple and myself were very impressed. I put it on my site, kept paying the Knot and hoping something would happen. I chatted with them regularly to review my site, marketing language, and do whatever we could to help me stay in business and give them my advertising money. They weren’t much help at first but eventually became a very wonderful resource.
    Again, I had only 2 weddings and 1 engagement shoot on my site, not a lot to work with. Despite my effort to disguise, but not lie about, this fact, my potential clients recognized that there were only 2 weddings and went elsewhere.
    Finally, I started getting bookings in 2012…lots. I went from zero to 10 in a year. I was thrilled, thought I’d be a great success if I could continue that rate of growth. I’ve shot 8 this year, no other bookings at the moment. Almost all of my bookings have been my minimum package. I recently decided to increase my rates in the hopes of becoming profitable; it was do or die time. The number of inquiries I got plummeted after raising my prices.
    In case you have just started thinking about getting into wedding photography, as much as it sucks to hear this, here’s what you need to know.
    1-You will have an incredibly difficult time getting started if you don’t have a big network of (friends, family, co-workers, college buddies) marrying age people. Even if you do, it’s a good idea to shoot for another photographer to build a portfolio and network with vendors.
    2-Pretty much no matter where you are, there is a ton of competition. There will always be someone who can do a better job for less money. Unless you are so talented and connected that you only cater to clientele to whom 3k or 10k makes no difference, you will be fighting with everyone else. Worse still, everyone else includes students. I’ve lost a few potential clients because $600 was too much money; they were going to trust their special day to someone with zero experience, cheap gear, and likely no backup gear or insurance to save a couple hundred dollars.
    3-Starting a photography business is cheap, compared to other businesses, so long as it’s not a full on studio. That said, it’s still very hard to make that money back and make a profit. I invested some equipment that I already owned (about 2k worth) plus about 6k in cash for additional equipment and overhead. I’m cashing out with additional gear but only about 5k in cash. I got tax refunds for the losses on prior years, not sure how much of that will have to be given back for profit in 2013. So, after 18 weddings I am somewhere around zero.
    4-Nobody, except wedding photographers seems to understand why $600 is too cheap. I started at $600 for 4 hours, many went elsewhere because of price-or at least that’s what they told me. $150/hr sounds great to most people getting it and terrible to those paying it. For some reason, nobody thinks about the time that you’re not billing for, or overhead. A 4 hour wedding would really take me about 25 or so, plus the non job specific time required to run a business. You have to charge enough to cover the time it takes to: answer emails, calls, take meetings, deposit checks, review contracts, review details of the wedding, research the venue, charge/prep/pack, drive, shoot, edit, backup and deliver the images, and post the highlights on your site, facebook, blog, or wherever and finally to solicit reviews. Then, after you divide what you charged over all of that time, you still have to have enough for your computer equipment, software, camera equipment, repairs, rentals, gas, insurance, taxes, etc. It makes me wonder if people charging 3k/wedding are even making money! I know they’re using more expensive gear and software than I am, probably spending more time editing too. I don’t know how anyone makes money doing this. You would have to have a ton of work and charge what you’re worth.
    5-It’s got to be one of the best ways you can learn photography, assuming you don’t mind letting down a client every now and again. I was lucky, after shooting 20 weddings (including 2 as a second shooter), I have made every couple happy. If there was any feedback, it was positive. The first real wedding I shot as an owner and lead, I did so with strep throat (almost no voice and a bad cough) and incompetent second shooter. She made many stupid mistakes, like focusing on the wall several feet behind the group of people while doing group/family portraits-this left the people way soft focused. Somehow, even that couple was happy. There’s a ton of pressure. You must get pretty much everything right every time, be in the right place, at the right time, and with the right lens and settings. Most shots cannot be redone, and if it is possible, it just makes you look like you were incapable of getting it the first place-which is probably the truth. I already had some sleep and anxiety problems, this did not make things easier for me. If you freeze under pressure, sometimes aren’t sure what settings to use, hesitate, can’t politely control a crowd and command respect without being a jerk-you will not do well.
    6-Doing this was very rewarding. It was nice to own a business, would have been better if it were more profitable. But still, I had control over it, it was completely mine. Most couples respected me and asked me to help them decide their schedule, where to shoot, how many hours, etc. It felt good to be viewed as an expert at something.
    Based on feedback from couples and my very harsh self judgment, I think I’ve done pretty well. I’ve become a better photographer, I’ve made some good connections, I’ve learned how to sell myself, increased my confidence and reduced my introverted tendencies (if only slightly).
    I’m not sure I would do it again. I gave up an incalculable amount of time in this pursuit. After 4 years of putting in a huge amount of effort, it’s time to call it.
    I am certain of my decision to quit. I look forward to having the time to have a life again, to do things I enjoy (even photography for fun, which I did very little of while doing weddings). I’ll also get back to my old hobbies, those which have been so open and honest about taking my hard earned money.
    I am still shocked by how hostile this business is to newcomers. I’m incredibly grateful to the couples who gave me a chance! For some reason, I will always hold a grudge for those who wasted my time with meetings, calls, emails, and even commitments to sign and put down a deposit only to vanish-how hard is it to say, ‘sorry, we’ve found someone else we like more.’ There’s lots of photographers out there, you’re not going to be for everyone and I never took that personally. When you work something like 60 hours a week, it hurts when someone won’t take the 30 seconds to send an email saying they’ve moved on.
    So, if you are a current or former wedding photographer, I’m curious how your experience compared with mine and what other advice you might offer to people considering entering this incredibly competitive environment. I know I’m a little crazy and I could have done things differently…like not start in the first place. Now that I’m past that, and I already point enough blame at myself, what can we do to help those who are crazy enough to think about doing this themselves?
    To potential newcomers, I’m open to your questions. Though my lack of success means my advise may be limited and not worth much. Personally, I think you can learn at least as much from failure as you can success.
    If I say…Run! Don’t do it! Many people would take that as a challenge. You think, who’s this guy, I’m smarter than him, I’m a better photographer, I can do it! You may be right and I wish you luck!
     
  2. I shot weddings in the film days but got out many years ago. In those days it was much harder to get it right (there was
    no instant review or digital recovery). The competition was probably a less price competitive as everyone had similar
    costs - no one would have used an amateur who owned an SLR and kit zoom (they didn't really exist back then - zoom
    were rare, slow and expensive). I look at some of the wedding shots around nowadays and the quality is just shocking -
    the basics of composition and exposure are lacking in many. Of course back in the film days a lot of money was made
    afterwards in prints and albums - today it seems that at the lower end of the market people give the digital copies away. I
    think the entry barriers are too low (anyone can call themselves a wedding photographer) and many of the buyers are
    very unsophisticated. I have not read bridal magazines but I can only assume that articles on what to look for in a
    wedding photographer are scare in these publications. There are of course some very talented and creative wedding
    photographers out there - some of whom seem to be working for very low rates.
     
  3. I should add that I await the day when the bride and groom just wear GoPro cameras on their heads!
     
  4. Years ago I thought about trying to make money with a photography related business. I never gave it a shot because 1) I'm honestly not as talented as the few people who are profitable at it. 2) Even if I was talented enough, the market is so flooded as you mentioned and it seemed like it would only be an exercise in frustration. I guess it represents the best and worst of the takeover of digital photography (The entry barrier/learning curve is low and there is no shortage of people willing to give it a shot.) Of course if you don't have the talent it doesn't matter, but I would imagine that years ago the time, expense and learning curve of shooting/developing film and/or working in a wet darkroom helped to weed out the pack somewhat. The poor economy probably doesn't help much either if it is your average middle class couple getting married. Professional wedding photos are a luxury item to many and while they are nice I'm sure plenty of people would be more than happy to cut costs as long as they just get some nice memories captured at all. Few are well-versed in the more intricate aspects of what makes a good wedding photo and I know of more than a few couples who just recruited a family or friend to fill in as a designated "cameraman." As you said I think the handful of people who can make a go of it have been in the game for years prior to the digital revolution and already had a solid reputation and portfolio or they are either just incredibly talented and/or connected to a well-heeled client base.
     
  5. How forthright and honest of you Greg! You are right, everyone can learn from wins and losses.
    Making a living at photography has indeed become quite difficult ... not just wedding photography, almost all categories have gotten harder to break into, establish yourself, or even survive. A naggingly persistent poor economy doesn't help one bit ... which made your timing a financial assault on your every effort, compounded by all your other circumstances
    Photojournalist have been impacted by the demise of newspapers and magazines, and the ubiquitous on-site cell phone. Commercial photographers have been impacted by slashed marketing budgets, the shift to web-based marketing, an exponential growth of stock photography, CGI, even companies using amateur employes to shoot products, and so on.
    As far as weddings and portraits go, the impact of techno-wonder, do it all for you, digital cameras has been discussed to death. However, Phillip Wilson touches on something more telling than "easy to use gear" motivating herds of freshly minted "Pro photographers" to set up shop ... then shooting for pocket change.
    In short, the public doesn't have a clue. Most people getting married now are social media inclined ... heavily trafficked websites dedicated to the banal and mundane ... punctuated by equally banal images that garner thumbs ups, thanks, or swooning accolades. It is where the average go to congratulate the average ... in mass.
    Dedicated and experienced wedding photographers may be more humanly insightful, apply a higher degree of craftsmanship and artistry, and employ creativity well beyond the average Joe or Jane could even dream of ... but much of that goes unrecognized, and by default under-valued. So, photography is evolving into a commodity like soy beans, and price for time spent becomes the criteria.
    They also have no idea of the time spent before and after a wedding shoot. They are used to some cell phone shot appearing on their Facebook page minutes after being taken ... "So what's the big deal?"
    Of course, there are exceptions to all of the above ... There are a lot of more savvy clients with taste and a willingness to pay for it ... however, they are not growing in number, while ever more photographers try to get that prized client's business ... including some of those talented journalists and commercial photographers looking to survive.
    Personally, I had the good sense to NOT quite my day job even though doing 15 to 20 weddings a year for close to two decades. I also diversified into commercial work and specialized portraiture. I feasted on the fat days and never went into debt ... all while on advice of my accountant, preparing for famine.
    When the recession hit (a depression spun into something less by politicians), it impacted almost every photographer in my area, established or not, talented or not. Studios closed daily. Once proud portrait shooters resorted to volume work like school sports, paying freelancers less than pocket change for 15- 18 hours work.
    I'm fortunate that the full impact of the digital revolution and Great Recession coincided with reaching retirement age, which ... (unlike many of my photo friends that stayed the course in photography, and now face pushing a grocery cart full of their remaining possessions), I was prepared for.
    I still shoot weddings and portraits, but on my terms and for a fairly hefty fee. People don't like it? They are free to go elsewhere, and I'll just enjoy my Summer shooting what I want, when I want.
    Timing is everything!
    - Marc
     
  6. Key quote, right here: "It makes me wonder if people charging 3k/wedding are even making money!"

    Thank you, Greg, for allowing us to benefit from your experience. I, an amateur, was cajoled into shooting the wedding of a close friend's son this past summer. Yes, I tried, several times, to get them to hire a professional, but for many reasons, they asked me to shoot. I have never photographed "so hard" in my life. I came away from the experience with a real appreciation for the pros who do this work, and for the hours they spend at the computer after the photography part of the job is done. I, too, wondered how it was possible to make money doing this kind of work.
    Oh, they were happy with my results, and we're still friends. I'm grateful for the experience, but I will be hiring a professional for my kids' weddings.
     
  7. I once came across an attorney's post in a forum who had graduated law school and got his licence 2 years prior. In it, he complained about his $100k+ student debt, how clients objected to the high cost of billable hours even though his fee was consistent with a start-up attorney, didn't appreciate the amount work that went into a case, don't understand the outcome-uncertainty of disputes, the overhead in maintaining a small law office, late or non-payments - in short, the same sort of thing wedding photographers complain about.
    So he decided he will quit his practice and join his brother's car dealership.
    I think a $3k+ wedding gig is a privilege a photographer earns just like a seasoned attorney with a demonstrable track record can attract clients able to afford their service, but someone who can not afford high cost services doesn't necessarily mean they're unsophisticated any more than the average car you drive implies your poor taste in cars - if you drive an old car and it breaks down, you'll still complain and no one should tell you the obvious - go buy yourself a new car. You get what you pay for.
    Without disrespect for any individual, I think it's often the wedding photographer who is unsophisticated, ill informed, and generally naive about what it takes to make it in the profession no different from anyone competing in any other profession. There will always be room for one more $3k+ wedding photographer to make a living in any market; whether or not that's "you" depends on "you" only and no one else.
     
  8. From an outsider's perspective (although I have taken a wedding jobs in the past), I am always surprised when I meet someone who says they are going "into photography" as a business. I politely inquire into their sanity. It always seems to be those who started photography about a year earlier and are probably surprised and gratified that they can make a decent image easily. Marc is absolutely right about the present state of the digital culture of images. To be a full time professional, who can pay his bills and make enough to live on, requires exceptional people and marketing skills - and that is before they even take any photos. I also think that the importance of the wedding has diminished over the last 30 years for the majority with the rise of divorce and civil unions, so recording it beautifully is even less of a priority than it was.
    Even a casual look at pro photographers' salaries tells you that the majority are not well paid by any stretch of the imagination.
     
  9. What goes on in the wedding photography business is also happening in the wedding DJ business.
    In the old days, DJs will bring crates of LPs and spin turntables playing music on vinyl from every imaginable genre to please a diverse audience. These days, every 20 year-old is interesting in DJ'ing with low cost digital gear armed with gigs and gigs of downloaded music on hard disk using modern digital control surfaces and software that'll even beat-match for you.
    There's simply not enough money in the low-cost market to justify lugging around a few hundred pounds of gear, setup, tear down, and make sure everyone is loving your music without a stone-faced crowd and no one dancing, but that doesn't deter the 20 year-old with dreams of doing what he loves and getting paid for it - until he has to move out of his parents' basement. Meanwhile he has eroded the DJ market by advertising himself as cheap-cheap-cheap.
    The real modern pro-DJ is a professional with knowledge of music and what people want to hear, and expert with his gear, supplies lighting, and operates in the same manner as any professional contractor. It's not necessarily cheap but you're guaranteed an evening of service that'll meet expectations. I'm not sure any of them are rich, but a few of them in every market seem to have been able to sustain a real business spanning longer than a flash in the pan.
     
  10. Just curious Michael, are you a wedding Photographer? Do you make your living from it?
    The Law profession isn't the same as Wedding Photography. Everyone and his pet dog isn't hanging out a Lawyer sign ... because they can't ... by law.
    Too many of these folks don't bother with commercial insurance, just fold their tent when they screw up, and mostly offer shoot and burn, so now hardly anyone can make a living because very few clients buy prints or albums ... which was once a source of revenue.
    Yes, it is a privilege to shoot a $3,000+ wedding ... I've always felt that way ... but to think the majority of the social media generation are looking for a long lasting sophisticated treatment of their photographic wedding record is truly naive ... Perhaps the most celebrated wedding shot of the past generation was Dennis Reggie's classic shot of John Kennedy and Carolyn exiting a quaint New England church ... this year is was a truly amateurish rendering of a T-Rex chasing a wedding party! Here today, gone today.
    However, I do agree that it is up to you to succeed, but one's expectations should be tempered by reality and market conditions, and be prepared ... even then, it is no guarantee that after years of toil, it may not happen anyway.
    The average price paid for wedding Photography has dropped over the past 5 years, and after shoot sales have declined significantly ... while the costs have risen. Insurance is more, equipment is more, gas is more, clothes are more, food is more, transportation is more ...
    Some will defy it all and make a go of it no doubt. But I can tell you from discussions on other Pro Wedding forums, more are fleeing than sticking ... and/or diversification is the watchword.
     
  11. Gup

    Gup Gup

    Greg, I applaud you in your efforts at attempting to save others from a similar fate.
    I shot my first wedding in 1978 and many since, but I haven't shot a wedding for two years now, I think I'm retired... I did it mostly because I loved the atmosphere and joy of the day, the money was always secondary back then. I didn't require the overhead that is needed today.
    There will always be room for one more $3k+ wedding photographer to make a living in any market; whether or not that's "you" depends on "you" only and no one else.​
    Up to my last wedding I was charging $3000 for a service I was told would have cost $6000 in the city. I worked by word-of-mouth and was happy to divert customers to other local photographers if I didn't feel I would enjoy working with them or my price 'surprised' them. Most of my overflow work is gladly taken by the $600 crowd (two school teachers and a single mom) who will bang out the usual flawed product. I do not have a website. I do not supply a DVD. I do not use a second shooter, only a very well trained assistant who is delighted with $200 for a long Saturday. My package includes a traditional wedding experience. A leather album into which I place 20 8x10s chosen by the couple from 200 4x6s that I cull from maybe 300 shots on the day. I have never used the motor drive on a digital DSLR, I shoot one at a time.
    Greg, I left my hometown and 'network' 25 years ago and moved to a tiny vacation area in northern Ontario. I knew nobody here. It is an economically depressed area where many haven't worked in decades since the only manufacturing plant moved away. Children grow up and leave as quick as they can. There is only a fast food industry here for them. I was employed in the construction industry originally but was unable to continue for health reasons so I turned once again to my camera and my marketing skills. 'My' marketing skills. There are others here with cameras, of course, but not with adequate enough people skills to sell themselves. I chose to meet in person with potential clients rather than to direct them to a website. I would spend half the time educating the couple to what might go wrong if they chose a service based on price rather than quality and the other half with a sample album of previous work. I learned that strategy from Life Insurance salespeople, scare the hell out of them ;) If I couldn't close them at the meeting I would leave them with a list of sample questions to ask my competition. I got a very high number of call-backs.
    Finally, I offered SERVICE, above and beyond what the others were willing to do. I would almost always be present at the rehearsal, usually the night before. That would allow me to check the lighting, the angles, to see everything in advance, but most importantly to meet everyone who would be involved. I would work hard to remember everyone's names and make sure they knew mine. I would be able to speak privately with the officiant at some point to set the ground rules for the ceremony. I would sometimes even be consulted on the ceremony itself and assist in the choreography as the person in the room with the most experience. In this way I would become a valued participant in the event and not just a hired hand. Being on a first name basis with everyone the next day was huge for me. The following day, I would shoot the girls getting prepped, the guys getting ready, the ceremony, the formals and then the reception. I stayed until it was 'over'. I made sure the clients got their 'money's worth'.
    By operating this way I didn't need to advertise for 15 years and could pick and choose my work. These days I shoot family portraiture outdoors, often right here, and my time is stress-free. I also NEVER turn down a charity gig when the phone rings.
    Greg, I don't have a business degree and I'm a self-taught photographer at best, but I believe if at first you don't succeed, you will have at least learned valuable lessons to apply the next time. Many live their lives never having even tried. You are to be commended for that if nothing else.
     
  12. First, thanks to Greg B. for a thorough and very candid post. This ought to be a "sticky" — and all the newbies who come here announcing that they're "getting into wedding photography" should be required to read this and take a short test on it afterwards. I'm not completely joking about that (certainly not about the sticky part).

    Marc W. says,
    The Law profession isn't the same as Wedding Photography. Everyone and his pet dog isn't hanging out a Lawyer sign ... because they can't ... by law.​
    Yes, absolutely. Things are hard even for lawyers, but the market is nothing like the photography market at all. The lawyers had the good sense eons ago to pass laws protecting themselves.
    The PPA is trying to do something remotely similar with certification — to establish a standard of competence. But there's no way that they will ever get a law passed saying that you can't hang out a shingle as a photographer until you have your CPP.
    Will
     
  13. Your story doesn't surprise me for two reasons. First as a software engineer with 2 degrees and 35 years of experience, I
    know that anyone can call themselves a programmer and it can be pretty hard to demonstrate why I'm a better bet for an
    employer than that person. Secondly, I'm only an amateur photographer, yet I've learned enough to know just how little I
    know. No matter how smart or talented someone is, they're still going to make all the stupid mistakes that the experienced
    person would not.


    I suspect the bargain hunters think photography must be easy so they're expecting bargain prices and professional skill,
    not realizing that that combination is pretty unlikely. Thanks for your post, it was very informative. I wish you luck.
     
  14. Lets face it. You have to advertise. Living on referrals won't work. You also have to advertise smartly. Knowing where to spend your money and getting your moneys worth.

    The Knot didn't work for me. Not 1 wedding.

    I advertise in a wedding network and the local Chambers. These are your free sales force.

    Almost all of those $3000 weddings are gone, however you can sometimes hit that $3000 mark and more, by not giving away the dang CD's as almost every photographer does.

    In just a few sentances I've written you should make it in the wedding bizz. Advertise wisely.
     
  15. ... all the newbies who come here announcing that they're "getting into wedding photography" should be required to read this ...​
    +1
     
  16. Here is a counter point-of-view to even my own posts here.
    This endeavor is like every other. It ebbs and flows. While the over-saturation of shooters and commodifying of wedding photography in the minds of the public prevails now ... it is most likely sure to change.
    The saturation may ease as people like the OP gracefully drop out, and people like me taper off into retirement. Clients may well revisit quality, after enough disappointments take place.
    It may well be that wedding photography will become a part time endeavor only, and not the basis of a full time occupation as it once could be. Or perhaps a component of a larger service or combined service such as video/still packages (like how DJ services are now offering photo/video packages). Who knows what will succeed and what will fail?
    The prize will go to those perceptive enough to catch the next wave.
    - Marc
     
  17. I confess that I have not shot a wedding for a while now, but back in the day my photographic partner and I had a formula that worked for us. We networked, we knew all the local churches and wedding venues, we would take on a civil ceremony/register office wedding when few other photographers would touch them. On a good Saturday we could be covering 5 or 6 weddings between us. We both used Bronica ETRS cameras with 35mm backups and had a very good working relationship with the local photo processing house who did our work exclusively, (and reworked it when we were not happy at no charge.)


    We offered a Silver, Gold or Platinum service, 90% of couples took the Gold, which ended up as 36 photos in an album, which translated into 3 rolls of film in the ETRS at 15 on a roll. It worked because we knew the venues and as such where the light would be at a certain time of day. We also worked together well so could back each other up on each ceremony, the whole thing was about planning. We also used CB radios to keep in touch as it was before the days of affordable cell phones!


    Would I do a wedding today? Yes, but only on my terms! I would shoot digitally but I still have the Bronica if the couple wanted that Film Look. Would I give them a CD/DVD with 500 images on? No Way! They can have the 36 images in an album with maybe jpegs for a fee. I think that the wedding business that I knew in the 80's and 90's has died. I have no desire to carry on into the digital age. The last wedding I shot was about two years ago for some neighbours. They were very happy with the results and many of their friends were shocked to see that they had an album of 10X8 prints and not a CD/DVD.


    On a personal level I think that the modern digital camera has now equalled or surpassed the film camera in most respects. I still shoot film in B&W because I feel that for me it still has an edge, but that is more about emotion than technical reasons. But for 99% of photography for commercial purposes, digital has the best solution.


    Just my .02 worth
     
  18. Here is how I got started, with my learning experiences and advice mixed in for newcomers:

    I started photographing weddings in May of last year, after moving from a very large state to a very small one. Before that I was a product and fine art photographer. I didnt know anyone, so I got my start on Craigslist. I needed some portfolio work, so I advertised for free engagement sessions. I got 2 responses, and the photos turned out okay. Then, my best friend from back home announced she was getting married and she was doing it all very last minute and on a tight budget (from start to finish, 3 weeks from her telling me to her wedding day). All of her close friends were pitching in in different ways, and so I was the photographer. Her reception was going to be in a restaurant, so I knew I needed to get serious about learning flash (I had always used a light box for the product and art photography). I rented back up equipment. I naturally like to read and study things, but I turned that up 10 notches to prepare for this wedding.

    Day of the wedding, I found out my best friend organized to have another friend photograph the wedding as well! Even though I was a newbie too, from working with this other friend, I learned the difference between those motivated to photograph weddings because they think it'll be fun and easy, to those who have a passion for it and want to be serious about making it a career (I was the latter, of course!). She was not prepared, had no sense for posing or timeline, did not have a flash for the dark reception, and her post-processing was all over the place. My best friend used just a few of her photos in their wedding album. She did photograph my friend's engagement session, and those came out very nice. Looking back on it now, she truly represents that classic case of "I have a friend who can take nice photos," that potential wedding clients bring up. Sure, they may take nice photos under zero-pressure situations with unlimited timelines, but a wedding is a whole different story and there is a lot more involved besides taking nice photos.

    After that, I officially had a wedding portfolio! I continued advertising on Craigslist, for extremely low rates. I was basically paying the couple to work for them, I was charging so little. But I knew it was a starting point for me. I needed to gain more experience and I wanted to find couples with very low expectations for wedding photos (yes, they do exist). I bought a 5D3, several flashes, and got business and equipment insurance. I booked several weddings where they did not plan on hiring a photographer but saw how cheap I was and hired me. Now, this is the point where many wedding photographers will say that Craigslist brides are psychotic women who have huge expectations and want $10,000 photos on a $100 budget. They will be nightmares to work with. Serendipitously, I never experienced this. I was very upfront about my skills and experience, and all my couples were so grateful to find a photographer on a budget.

    Every 3rd wedding I booked, I increased my rates by roughly 50%. Just enough that I could get referrals from past weddings, without the new couples being shocked at my hugely increased prices. I did make one mistake though. I didnt account for my rates increasing a year later. I booked several weddings at my low price a year in advance. This summer, I photographed one wedding for a couple hundred bucks, and the next weekend--at the same location, no less!--for over a thousand more. I now plan on reviewing my price structure in the middle of each wedding season, see how I'm doing, what could work better, and adjust my rates for the next year. Along this note of crunching numbers--be prepared for taxes! I naively thought I could file with my income taxes, but it turns out there are quarterly filing dates. Woops.

    Last year, while perusing Craigslist, I saw an ad from another wedding photographer looking for a second shooter for several weddings. I responded and I worked with her for free for 4 weddings and I got lots of great portfolio work (always discuss the terms! I dont like to leave anything to assumption and I made sure it would be okay to use my images in a portfolio, with credit to her). She was my first step in networking. She grew up here, knows a ton of vendors, and has really helped me gain a foothold in this small, very tight-knit wedding industry. She sends me a lot of referrals and I've booked several weddings from her. This year, on a different photography forum, I saw a wedding photographer ask some questions about hiring a second, who just so happened to be located in my small state. I private messaged him and offered my services. We hit it off and I've worked with him on a few weddings for a very nice second shooter rate. Slowly but surely, I'm growing my network. It's intimidating since I'm an introvert and I'm trying to break into a business where all the other vendors have known each other for years and years and, living in a small town, have practically grown up with each other and their wedding clients. But it can be done. I plan to join some of the local wedding networking groups soon.

    Last year, I photographed 8 solo weddings and 4 as a second. This year, 13 solo weddings and 3 as a second. I have 8 solos booked for next year (whereas this time last year, I had 2 booked). 90% of my bookings for next year are via word of mouth and referrals (I'm starting to get found via Google, which is exciting. I've been very bad about blogging, but I've spent the hours doing the mind-numbing task of properly alt-tagging my portfolio images. I think it's finally paying off. Also: sign up for all those free wedding vendor listings! Get your website out there). This year, it was about 50/50 Craigslist and word of mouth. Last year, 100% Craigslist. I've booked several weddings via Facebook (I ask all my clients to tag themselves in their sneak peek album) and one of their friend's-mother's-sister's-best friend saw the wedding and contacted me for her wedding. My goal is 15 solo weddings a year at my current (and profitable, yay!) rates. However, I'm happy to do this part-time (although, it sure doesnt feel part time during the summer months) since I live in the north east and wedding season is dead during the winter. I have a part-time job that's also involved in the photography industry. I like having the reliable income. I'm slowly branching out into other related portrait photography (babies and boudoir) and hopefully that will eventually fill up the dead winter months.

    My next steps are signing up for Two Bright Lights and trying to get blog-published to increase my SEO, my brand, and word of mouth buzz. I have yet to pay for any wedding vendor listing. My biggest problem at the moment is convincing couples to go with a higher package; really nice albums arent convincing them. They are very stuck on getting just the digital images.

    So, that's my story! Hope it helps anyone out there who is looking into becoming a wedding photographer. It is a lot of work, but I love it.
     
  19. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    I think some people posting here miss, or don't miss but completely fail to understand, the huge shifts in culture and entertainment that are going on. There's a lot of "good old days" talk that sounds like some of the silent film actors when the "talkies" came along.
    People's attitudes about a) photography and b) marriage have changed dramatically. A lot of people weren't that interested in fancy photos before, but there wasn't much choice. And people I know are skipping the whole wedding thing and just living together and having kids. I talked to someone the other day who said they were having a City Hall wedding because they thought it was "cool." The wedding would be about 30 minutes, they just wanted a photographer for that. The wedding party was in a bar that evening and they were just going to have friends snap.
    In addition, I hear from "millenials" that their parents never showed their albums to anyone so why should they bother with wedding photographers. I have exactly one photo from my wedding that's ever been on display and it's 5x7. I have no idea where the rest are. I don't think I knew a year afterwards.
    The last two weddings I shot I was told "no formals." One didn't want the ceremony photographed. This is just the way things are going.
    It's not just weddings though, it's all photography. The uses are different, the expectations are different, and the pay is different. I stopped doing fight photography because it wasn't paying that much more than the transportation any more. And what people wanted was a mix of stills and video. I shot a music festival for an online magazine recently and most of the photographers under 30 were shooting stills through one song and video through another. I suspect the videos will get far more views on youtube than any of the stills will anywhere.
    It's time to accept that it's not newbie photographers or digital technology ruining photographers' business, it's that massive change in how people view their lives and images, a combination of the photography, particularly with phones, and the internet. Since the internet isn't going away, there isn't a lot of choice about this.
     
  20. Jeff while I agree with all your points I think digital photography is a factor. Back when I shot weddings medium format
    was the customer expectation and the use of film meant that there was no instant feedback or much of a chance to
    salvage things in post. Now with DSLRs being the norm from the weddings I have attended the entry barriers of skill and
    equipment have been significantly reduced. Back in the film era the risk of failure scared many people off shooting
    weddings as they often struggled with equipment settings and the basics of composition and exposure. I will shoot for
    people I know but only on a non- commercial basis and I advise them to hire a professional. Over the last five years I
    have shot at two weddings where the "professional" was completely incapable of doing his job. Indeed one of them never
    took the camera out of fully automatic mode and had now idea what a RAW file was!. This does not seem to be limited to
    just weddings as I see it with a range of photographic disciplines from school photographs to the people who shoot group
    photos at ski hills. Next time you encounter one of these professionals ask them what their experience is. The last
    shooter at a ski hill I encountered was a "professional" but had only learnt to shoot about 3 weeks earlier. Indeed he was
    very grateful when I explained what white balance was and how to set it using the snow! The simple fact is that in
    addition to attitudes changing (hence my comment about go pros) the entry barrier / risk equation has also changed.
    With a DSLR you can shoot a lot more photos, the LCD gives you some idea if you have an image and so even someone
    totally unskilled now feels brave enough to set themselves up as a professional. In the days of film the costs of film and
    processing and the uncertainty on exposure and focus deterred many people. In addition the limited size of a film meant
    that you needed two bodies.
     
  21. Statistics back up Jeff's anecdotal comments. According to a 2011 article in the Huffington Post, percent of marriages were down 20% since 1960. Also, couples that do get married, tend to do so later in life than in the past. Of course, this doesn't take into account the increase in population, especially the second baby boom represented by Generation Y.
    A number of factors are at play here. That many younger people entered the work force just as the economy tanked didn't make for a bright outlook ... such events have a direct correlation on social attitudes and actions. Also, as Jeff mentioned, other arrangements formerly looked down upon, have become socially acceptable.
    A key bit of info is that people who are educated have less decline in marriages than those less educated. Also, it is a general fact that marriage is a key attribute in building wealth long term.
    The above is born out in my own anecdotal experiences. While the amount of weddings I've shot noticeably declined in the past 3 or four years, the weddings I did book tended to be 30+ couples ready to start a family after solidifying their lives. All but one couple were highly educated professionals, and the average price paid for their photos was at least twice my previous average, give or take. These folks have a plan, and family is taking on a more important role.
    With this target client, things like family groups have once again taken on more importance ... 6 years ago, clients wanted to minimize formals opting for more candid works ... now with this older client, it is becoming more of a priority again.
    I also have noted that ethnic groups with a stronger family under-pinnings are more inclined toward bigger weddings, and full photographic services ... in this case it is heavily influenced by cultural traditions and the parents ... even if the couple is paying for the wedding themselves.
    Expectations on these jobs is very high ... I even use a lighting tech on top of second shooter/assistant to assure results no matter what.
     
  22. A recent movie demonstrating Jeff's example of the advent of talkies is "The Artist." I liked it because I are one and because I still use Fresnel hot lights for that type of image. Folks here have to remember not only do our clients not appreciate the quality or expense of your gear that some photographers wax poetically about, they wouldn't know a rule of thirds from the inverse square rule. Most aren't artists or photographers. They are not contest judges and unfortunately, beauty is in the eye of the checkbook holder. So you have to please them. As for the legal field, some law schools have decreased their admissions. Some have been sued by their graduating students who cant find a job. Don't forget we are all facing a horrible economy. With 1 person in six below the poverty line and record numbers on food stamps, do you think they are buying $3000 weddings? They cant afford food. Jeff is absolute right, things have changed and not for the better.
     
  23. Greg, I started out just before you and did almost exactly when you'd done. I'm a weekend worrier so out situations are different. One big difference is where you are located. If you are in a small town in CO; what you expeirenced is probably the norm. In bigger town like Denver, you could very well have done far better. Location is perhaps the number 1 deciding factor on how a business will perform. Sorry this didn't work out for you and good luck on your future endevor.
     
  24. Thank you all for the support and stories. It's nice to hear from others who have had similar experiences.
    Lauren S.-our stories sound very similar and my next step was to try 2nd shooting again (primarily to network), I just ran out of energy. Sounds like you have a great plan, best of luck to you!
    Green Photog-I'm between Boulder and Denver, and cross market in probably the biggest demoof the state. I disagree and suspect that the problem is that having a larger area means getting lost in the giant mass of competition.
    A lot of people are making many great points. I agree, my timing was terrible for manyreasons, though I couldn't control any of that. I believe that a big part of the trends that people see depend on their prices, their portfolio, referrals, and specific market. If you have a portfolio of lots of formals, you're going to attract clients who want that. Almost all of my clients only did group posed shots because they knew their family wanted them. A good portion of my clients were already married and just did this 'wedding' for the family. Fewer people are getting married and many of those who are don't have a ceremony/reception-of those, fewer still, care about photography enough to spend real money on it. The entry barriers are minuscule and way too many people think it will be fun and an easy way to make good money. Although I'm too young to have experienced the good old film days and post sales, I am sure that digital has all but killed a huge profit engine for photographers-albums and prints. When clients get all of the images, they can make all of the albums and prints they want for next to nothing. I always included all pics on DVD because I found a lot of couples felt that it was a rip off to be charged extra for it. Charging extra for it seems to be a list stitch effort by some to hold onto the film pricing model, it's dead.
    I bet something like 50% of all DSLR's sold only leave manual/AV/TV modes accidentally, the owners don't know the first thing about the rule of thirds, 1/lens MM shutter speed, noise, exposure compensation, white balance, etc. The scary thing is when some of that crowd thinks they can be a pro.
    I did a ton of learning before I did my first second shooter job and continued to teach myselfwhenever/whatever possible. I averaged well over 100 shots/hr at weddings and would normally deliver around 95% of that to the client. It is exhausting and very stressful. If only client appreciation could pay my bills!
    The internal limiting factor for me was time and patience. It's possible I could have reached my goals if I stayed in it longer-if I had more time to develop a deeper former client referral base and network of vendors, and other photographers to swap work with.
    Again, thank you all who have posted. I think this is becoming an increasingly helpful resource to those thinking about getting into this as well as to others like me-it seems quite apparent that there are many here who couldn't make it or knew it was too challenging to even bother trying.
     
  25. Greg sorry you had such a tough time but I hope it will set you up for something better. As has been said entry barriers have fallen and attitudes have changed. There also seems to be a feeling that the technology is what differentiates photographers. When I take sports shots - such as a panning shot of a ski racer in flight (nice blurred background and sensation of speed) I am often told that it was my equipment that allowed me to get the shot that the parent with a kit zoom and low ends DSLR could not get. I agree that I used a much better lens and body but in this case I used manual focus, manual exposure and manual white balance. The reason the racer is large, centred in the frame and completely sharp was a result of years of practice. I think the public is being told that the difference is technology not skill. Just as your car can make you a better driver (it can now keep you in the land and stop you hitting things!) the belief is that the camera is the same. YEs technology has reduced the failure rate but in cannot make a bad photographer shoot like Robert Capa. Unfortunately the marking of the manufacturers has encouraged people otherwise. Indeed when i shoot sports with a big white lens I am often asked what zoom ration my lens has - the assumption being that such a big lens must be a massive zoom (1000x or more) even when i am shooting a prime!
     
  26. The notion that the general consumer of photography is a country bumpkin is a fallacy. They don't need to know how the sausage is made to enjoy it.
    Most folks do not need to know the rule of thirds to react to its' universal appeal when it is used. Same with excellent lighting, and so on.
    If all the aesthetics of photography were for naught, motion picture production values would have not progressed to their current state of excellence. While there are modern movies that leave a lot to be desired, they rarely are poorly produced any more.
     
  27. The technology has improved so much that anyone with an entry level DSLR and a decent flash can photograph a wedding. It may not look as good as a pro, but it will likely be acceptable to most. So now you have Uncle Bob, with his Nikon 7100 (or Rebel), and a good flash, good Photoshop skills, taking the business away from the pros.

    In the old days of Film – you needed a medium format camera, the right film, and a general knowledge of photography to photograph a wedding. Not anymore….. These new cameras with their computers are like pilotless planes that can take off and land by themselves. Sure, there will be times when you wish you had a pilot, and the plane crashes, but people are looking to save money.
     
  28. That is probably one of the most honest and thoughtful posts I have had the privilege of reading.
    Thank you.
    A real problem I see is the huge number of "you can be a hot shot wedding photographer" coaches and bloggers. Their mantra is "if you are not making it, stop moaning and double down and try harder", totally ignoring the reality of the market that some people operate in. Of course they all have established business and make a fortune selling "shovels to the gold miners".
     
  29. I used to edit photos for a wedding photographer - after a couple years, I felt that after having edited so many weddings and hearing the war stories, I felt I could venture out and do it myself. Of course, I also had background in photography - took b&w classes at a university and learned how to shoot manual everything.
    I jumped into wedding photography with both feet. I realized I needed a portfolio, so I did what every pro photographer hates. I placed an ad on Craig's List. I was honest and said I would charge $1.00 per photo (minimum of 150). Craziness. I did 4 weddings like that. I raised my prices to that of a cheap photographer - and some bride on the Knot sang my praises. I never advertised - always worked on referrals. The Knot brides are always looking for the "best for the cheapest." I was that for a couple years. Then I raised my prices to that of an low to mid range photographer. Still got lots of referrals. Still never advertised. Never charged what I really should have charged - because I'm so self critical that I didn't think I deserved it. After 4 years, I was exhausted. I had a full time job and photography became my second full time job. I wanted out. I doubled my prices because I didn't want any more business, but I didn't want my current brides to feel nervous (I had a year's worth of bookings ahead of me). People were still calling me. I was shocked. But I was also braindead. I was beginning to hate it. I turned all of them down and celebrated when I shot my last wedding.
    This was two years ago. My daughter just got married this year. I never realized how good I was until I started shopping around for a photographer. People who were clearly unimaginative and pushed poor quality were charging an arm and a leg. I shook my head in disbelief. I'm not patting myself on the back for the work that I did, but I really never gave myself the credit that I should have -- so critical of myself, I failed to realize that I actually had talent in this field. Not only in taking photos but in relating to the brides and grooms. The knowledge wasn't enough to make me want to get back into wedding photography. I even sold my pro equipment because I had so many people asking for freebies (my day job included), that I wanted to get rid of my equipment so they would quit bugging me.

    The only camera I have now is my old Canon 40D and an 85 mm 1.8 lens. Oh...and a G12. It has taken me a couple years, but I am just now beginning to feel like picking up the camera again for enjoyment.
    The lesson I learned was that if people are talking about "what a great photographer for the price" - then it's time to increase your price. And keep increasing until you reach a point where people leave off "for the price." You never want to be so busy that you can't enjoy other aspects of your life.
     
  30. Speaking of taxes--if you are self-employed in the US, you do have to pay Federal income and payroll taxes quarterly--"estimated taxes"--- and your tax rate will be about 7.5% higher than it was in your last job, where you were an "employee." That is because the self-employed have to pay both sides-employee and employer- of the social security and Medicare taxes. "Both sides" adds up to about 15.3% or so of your income at this point in time, in addition to your federal income taxes. And if you live in a state with an income tax, you have to pay that quarterly too.
     
  31. I don't think it's hard to break into, but it's often difficult to make enough money to live off of independently.
     
  32. A real problem I see is the huge number of "you can be a hot shot wedding photographer" coaches and bloggers.​
    One time I attended a local seminar hosted by a famed photog. For a one day lecture plus one day shooting, the costs were $1000. The seminar was mostly about how this photog went from charging $2K to five figure but really it was mostly story telling instead of business coaching. The shooting was just some model and setup for people to shoot and limited if at all coaching by this photog.

    I definately felt like it was more about meeting this famed photog and not much learning. And I pity the out of town attendees paying even more for this.
     
  33. After being in this profession for over 20 years and seeing the changes, it's really sad. Quality is not considered by the middle to low end market. It's all about price. And with tons of people charging the same, it becomes a losers court.
    When film went to digital and photographers starting giving away the files, I sqw the writing on the wall. Post print sales were a huge part of a professions income. And giving away all of the files, well, you can see what that caused. Why did photographers do that ? I chalk it up to the newbies who knew no better and created a storm that everyone had to work in or lose clients.
    Cheap digital cameras, phones and technology also brought other factors into the mix as the public's perception of our work was immensely lowered. If it's cheap and easy and quick, why pay these high prices that they're charging. ( I guess experience, reputation and a proven track record didn't matter).
    The huge influx of people getting into an unregulated, super affordable profession with very little entry threshold also lowered the standards for our profession. It's purely percentages. More photographers fighting for the same client willing to drop their prices to get that client. And the huge amount of weekend warriors willing to shoot for next to nothing for chump change has had a devastating impact.
    The only way for a wedding photographer to earn a decent living is to be a connected guy with other venues and coordinators who send you work. And once again, the percentage of photographers fighting for those positions has quadrupled, at least.
    The seminars put on by the so called rock stars of photography have always been a waste of time. We had them back in the film era and it was mostly about hawking the gear that paid for the seminar The actual technical skills one could learn from these seminars was minimal.
    There have always been those who merely say " Up your game". And to a degree, they are right. But there will always be someone better and cheaper. Everyone else is "upping their game" too.....
    Full time vs. part time. I know many part timers who have a regular full time job that pays their bills. The wedding photography part time gig is just that......a pocket change gig that they use to enhance their lives, not to live on . They can hold out for their price. If they shoot one wedding a month, they're happy. If they shoot only one wedding every two months they're happy. I know many photographers like that. Nothing wrong with it, but every person's living situation is different and thus affects how they charge for their work.
    I also know others in the same boat who give away their work because "they just do it for fun"...thus lowering the earning standards of the entire market.
    As someone posted earlier, it's not only photographers but also DJ's, florists and other wedding vendors. Why someone would want to work so hard at something to make chump change is beyond me.
    I also know many who came into the bizz with high hopes and are now doing something else because they didn't achieve the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. There are so many factors involved in being successful, that your photography skills are a small percentage of it. I learned that the hard way, thinking that if you provided excellent work that the would be knocking on the door. Not so.
    Sadly technology and a bad economy has created the perfect storm for lowering the earning ability in this profession.
    For those with the ability to make a great living at it, everything comes full circle. Enjoy it while you can because it wont be there for the rest of your life.
     
  34. Greg, that's a very well stated post. I'm glad you shared your experience with all of us. I personally have only recently becoming involved in the wedding photography world (but have been a hobby photographer for years - starting in the era of film with my own B&W darkroom setup at home). My decision to pursue this was spurred on by the fact that the photographer I hired at my wedding ticked me off lol. After that, I was hell bent to become a great photographer that provided designers with RAW files upon request (it sounds bizarre to read that I'm sure but there's a back story there and I don't want to bore you with the details).
    My first task was to enrol in a wedding photography course. This taught me some of the key requirements - two bodies, composition techniques, working with the surroundings to capture interesting layouts, etc. It also gave me two 'mock weddings' to put into my new portfolio. Also part of of this course was a requirement to capture an engagement shoot. A friend of a friend fortunately was interested and I did this for free. They were really happy with the pictures and I completed my assignment. As an added plus, I had more content for the portfolio. I highly recommend a course when starting out to provide this type of content - at the least, as well as tips.
    Thankfully I'm a graphic and web designer so I built a Smugmug website that looked quite slick and gave me the boost I needed to look established and professional.
    At that point, everything sort of came to a halt. I had a few things in my portfolio, a business name, business cards but no one was calling - very similar to your setup. So I decided to advertise online to be a second shooter. I created a promotional video which directed people to my website and paid to be a top advertiser. By pure luck, one of the top wedding photographers within my city reached out to me as he was seeking to replace a second shooter he had had for years. I photographed two weddings for free with him and he was happy so he took me on as an official second photographer. (it's all about timing and I thankfully was in the right place at the right time)
    This past summer I collected photographs from over 10 weddings so I went from 0 to 100 extremely quickly. I also had my eyes widened. This is not a career I would take on full time. The photographer I work with has wealthy clientele so he can make a living as a photographer; however, talk about a high stress job!!! HOLY SMOKES! He seems to thrive off of it. Me, I enjoy it, but feel like someone beat me up the next day haha. I really enjoy being a second shooter though as I get to participate in the day without the stress of having everything up to me to deliver on, nor do I have to figure out the complexities of a contract and specialized packages. I can get on with creating beautiful images that aid in the overall package presentation - all for one set fee that doesn't change whether it's a 6 hour wedding or 12 hours. A fee I'm very happy with as well.
    I'm in the unfortunate situation of transitioning careers so I'm currently in school and may not be employed in my new career choice for possibly years to come. I need photography and design to pay the bills at the moment and believe me, it's pretty much impossible. In order to balance school obligations, I can only work freelance at the moment. I can't imagine trying to make a living as a photographer..it's a risky road to travel down and not worth it. I say pursue wedding photography on weekends if it's something you really enjoy in conjunction with a full time job, but it is a lot of stress and if you only have two days off each week, is it worth it? (as a second shooter you just show up, do your job, and leave so it works out a lot better)
    No one has called me yet to be the photographer for their wedding, even though my portfolio continues to grow. I've set my prices in a manner that allows me to cover my costs - sort of. It should technically be double what's listed to actually make profit. I'm extremely meticulous about post production work so I throw away many hours on that, achieving unique effects that people generally go crazy over, etc.
    I'm onboard with you though, it's really not worth it in the long run to do this as a principal shooter. I'm quite pleased to simply be a second shooter and in ohhhh 5 years or so, I might have all of my gear paid off :).
     
  35. Why someone would want to work so hard at something to make chump change is beyond me.​
    John, I see where you are coming from and I'm a part time shooter with a day time job. In capitalism, we only need to consider our own benefits because in doing so it benefits us all. A free shooter might not realize he could charge $1K and so he shoots for free but that won't last long. Prety shoot that free shooter will move up to $1K which some other free shooters will take his place.
    Whether $1K or $2K is chump change depends on how you structure you business. If just shoot for 8 hours and give SOOC images to the clients, $1K is not chump change. I guess my point is that we tend to build our business based on our ideal and hope to find clients that recognize this ideal. That's why we keep saying wedding photos is of paramount importance so this and that has to be done.
    But what if one day people don't think wedding photos is of paramount importance (I think some of that is already happening now)? Just for arguments sake, what if one day all clients request SOOC images and nothing else?
     
  36. I just shake my head when a bride is willing to pay 800.00 for a photo booth but balks at paying a thousand for a basic photo coverage. It's always been that way in the wedding industry. The majority of brides will pay for the things that their guests will see. The flowers, a limo, photo booth,chair covers and linens, cheap table favors that get left behind by the guests that still added up to hundreds that could have been spent on their wedding photography. It boggles my mind yet I have seen that year after year.
    Now don't get me wrong, i've had plenty of brides who "got it right" They valued their photography and expressed it. They knew that when it was all over, the only thing left was going to be their memories in the form of their photos.
    In our industry, it's always been this......NETWORKING is the key. One can have mediocre work and books tons of work because they have a mile long network association.
    And a super photographer with outstanding work can watch the silent inbox because he's not a "connected " guy.
    In respect to "working for chump change", i guess what I was getting at is that weddings are hard work. A skilled shooter knows their worth. A thousand bucks for a SOOC job is a decent days wages. But that shooter better be the best damn out of the camera shooter otherwise his clients aren't going to be happy with all of the out of focus, badly cropped, blown exposure shots that come with that.
    I prefer to give my clients my best work. OUR work is what sells us. I can't see how giving SOOC images does any good for future bookings. NO ONE ever gets it perfect or close to perfect doing that.
    Now if a shooter is regularly doing that and being successful at it, then he has to be able to nail all of his images right in camera to pull that off. And if he's got that much talent and skill to do that. why the heck is he wasting his time with making chump change working his butt off. He is NOT getting paid what he's worth. IMHO.
    If he's merely doing it apart time to make extra pocket change for the week, and he's happy doing that, more power to him. But for those of use who know how much work it entails to photograph a wedding THE RIGHT WAY, and not just show up and do the minimum, making that amount is not worth it at all.
    But I am probably wrong in this darn economy and society where professional photographers are viewed as Uncle Bob with a camera anymore.
     
  37. Green, when that day comes I'll be doing something else. The public seems to forget the skill and talent of the individual photographer anymore. All they see are dollar signs and we are all the same.
    Selling our skill and talent is what sets us apart from each other. THAT is what needs to be sold, Not the disc or hours. Convincing a client to use your services because you can create and provide images that they can't get elsewhere based on your imagination, eye and skill set is what we all should strive for.
    Unfortunately, with the over saturation of the market, it all becomes a blur to the public now Not to mention how their perception of our profession has been ruined by cheap digital cameras, phone and photoshop....."Heck anyone can do that"........" wow you own that camera, wow it takes great photos"...............
    Had this exact thing said to me the other day by a potential bride. " Wow that camera takes great phiotos".............."yeah, I just set it on a chair and it does it's own thing while I wait in the car".............
     
  38. • 2004 started with a canon 20d and background in graphic design.
    • 2004-2006 Worked for a local photog company to learn the ropes.
    • 2006 Went solo and lowballed everyone with $1000 for 8hrs + free engagement + all high res files on disc.
    - at this point i wasn't just undercutting, but listening CLOSELY to what "my target" brides wanted.
    • 2006 Booked 80 weddings absolutely no advertising...all love came from theKnot.com forums...not ads.
    • 2007-2011 raised prices gradually to average $2500 for 6hrs and disc of images. Averaged over $100k each year...no album or print sales...no advertising.
    • 2010 This is when things started to slip...I was too busy...too stressed...my quality slipped, scores of competitors popped up overnight, i stopped updating the blogs. The knot turned into a ghost-town and I only got booked through vendor referrals which i'm grateful for...be warned though...there is a HUGE difference in the relationship you have with brides who "seek you out", compared to the ones who pick you off a vendor list.
    • 2011 the photography boom hit full swing and everyone & their momma were in business...they took a workshop, rented gear, bought a website template, and COPIED COPIED COPIED anything new. If any photog tries something new today it is IMMEDIATELY copied by dozens of "blog scavenging photogs".
    • 2012-2013 I only shot about 60 weddings total. The industry is completely saturated with newcomers who are more in tune with todays hyper-tech brides than I am...totally burned out.
    • 2014 taking a full year off from work to enjoy life...maybe I'll come back in 2015 but I doubt it will be easy or worth while. Likely will go back to school for a new skill/trade.


    If you're thinking about starting up a wedding photography biz...my advice is :
    • DON'T put all your eggs in this basket...you're about 4 years late to the party and all the best food is gone.
    • Its still more lucrative than a dayjob...hell even if you only shoot 1 a month, it equals about 160hrs of regular wages...but don't quit your dayjob cause you're not the only one who realizes this is easy money.
    • Team up with a videography crew...these guys are using the same gear and coming out in "squads" of 3-5 shooters...its almost impossible to work with that many other shooters around, so you may as well join them and create a fusion of both photo/video.
    • A $3000-$10,000 bride today is most likely 1) Asian 2) Looking for a fusion photo & video package.
    • Listen closely to what the brides want...NOT older photogs advice. Find a way to give the brides what they want. Don't just listen to the old timers b!itch about giving away cds, digital, or not selling prints, bla bla bla...focus only on "your target" clients wants & needs...today's brides have different needs/expectations than the old times clients had.
    • STOP reading photo blogs and copying every else...get inspiration from movies or other places...if you shoot like everyone else, you will get lost in the ever swelling sea of competitors.
    • Don't go out and buy camera bodies...I have $30,000 worth of outdated camera bodies/flashes. The lens are a good investment but don't buy camera bodies...you can rent them super cheap and always have the newest features that way. Plus it sucks beating up your own gear and maintaining it.
    • If you only shoot weddings & portraits, your not earning the title of "photographer"...call yourself a "camera operator"...or say you "take photos at weddings".
    • Check your greedy little pig at the door...be "FAIR" priced and you will never need to pay for advertising, because your clients will be your Brand Evangelist...think about it..every woman likes to share info about the new best deal they found.


    Lets do a quick price/reality check on how much it cost to shoot a single wedding:
    $500 - rental gear (look for packages : http://www.hawaiicamera.com/rent/canon-1d-c-4k-package--1/oahu)
    $200 - assistant (find one that has gear so you don't have to rent more)
    $300 - outsource your editing (so you don't have to spend 40hrs behind the computer for each event)
    $100 - shipping (i'm being generous here assuming your not just mailing cds but giving harddrives instead)
    $50 - fuel/parking (tax deductible)
    $100 - computer (you should own this already but lets say an imac costs $1500 / 15 accounts)
    $20 - utility (you have to power up the computer and pay the phone bill right?)
    $10 - archives (2tb wester digital is about $150 / 15 accounts)
    $0 - studio space (work from home+get a 1/4 rent tax deduction...nobody gets married in a studio anyway)
    $120 - vehicle maintenance (generous again...you shouldn't ever bill for this you bean counter)
    ---------------------------------------
    $1400 Total account expense.
    Now, is it "fair" to charge people $3000?
    Well maybe it is fair. You would earn about $1500 for your "artistic talent"..cough..cough...
    Taxes would take almost 50% so that leaves about $750 profit. Or $100 pr hour for an 8hr event.
    Do you really deserve to make $100pr hr for your expertise in today's saturated market of "experts"?
    Anesthesiologist make $100hr, Mechanics do too, Tattoo artists, Programmers, and Underwater Welders do.
    00cGsy-544537884.jpg
     
  39. I think the market is saturated with photographers and will probably stay that way for the next couple years. The example I like to use is, when I went to college in 1979 the campus and surrounding area were saturated in pizza joints. I couldn't believe there were enough students to keep all the places selling pizzas in business. in fact, during a night of drinking, a few friends and I tried to do the math on how much each student would have to spend to keep all the pizza joints in the black. 4 years later when I graduated, my theory on too many places in the market panned out as 50% of the pizza places closed their doors and went out of business. I just can't see all these photographers staying in business. besides, as others have already said, taking pictures today is a lot easier than it was when I started, there is just less need (sadly) for the pro photographer today.
    BTW, very good thread.
     
  40. Shawn said:
    STOP reading photo blogs and copying every else . . . get inspiration from movies or other places . . .
    First, let me just say, "Great post!" Also, the photo in your post is priceless! Perhaps, fortuitously, I haven't been reading wedding photog blogs (with the exception of this wedding-related forum). I do use movies (specifically, lighting, which I do for a living), and women's fashion magazines for inspiration. Coming from film/TV, I think I have a slightly different perspective on the craft, and I'm betting on that experience to help develop my vision further. Thanks for sharing your insights!
     
  41. Here in the UK around 80% of photography businesses will fail within two years. Generally speaking it takes up to 5 years to turn a profit. You do need a means of surviving throughout that period. From what I've seen there are several key reasons for failing. One is poor planning and a poor understanding of both marketing and accounting. I can think of countless photographers who have failed because they were very poor at working out their true overheads and consequently very poor at understanding how much they would need to charge and earn in order to meet those costs and to generate profit. Concurrent with this, and crucially, is an understanding of the target client group and their motivators. There are plenty of low cost high-volume wedding photographers who are successful, just as there are high cost high-value photographers. They succeed because they understand business even more than they understand the art of photography.
    There is little point going into business if you're going to sit in the same hole as everyone else - if you can differentiate yourself and stand out from the crowd in some way then you will greatly increase your chances of survival. The voice which shouts the loudest is the one which tends to be heard. The grey middleground is the worst place to be.
    In response to a prior comment, suggesting that technology has made it feasible for anyone to enter the wedding photography market - yes, anyone can enter the market. But very few will manage to stay there - and that has nothing to do with equipment. I have an oven and a frying pan, they were quite expensive, but I sure as hell can't cook. I can't think of many people who would pay to eat my food. The poorly skilled shooters out there very rarely last, they either fade away or else they realise that they need to polish up their act. They may even have a couple of legal actions against them along the way if they're charging for a genuinely below par product. I highly doubt any of them are making a profit.
     
  42. Lindsay said:
    I have an oven and a frying pan, they were quite expensive, but I sure as hell can't cook. I can't think of many people who would pay to eat my food.
    Funny!
    There is little point going into business if you're going to sit in the same hole as everyone else--if you can differentiate yourself and stand out from the crowd in some way then you will greatly increase your chances of survival . . . The poorly skilled shooters out there very rarely last, they either fade away or else they realise that they need to polish up their act.
    Agreed. I've been looking at some Los Angeles-area wedding photographers' work. Some are superb. Many, simply "adequate." I'm not worried about Craig's list photographers, and I'm not planning to compete on price. Once I become established, I'll certainly be targeting a specific clientele, using a specific marketing strategy. By the way, your work is gorgeous, Lindsay!
     
  43. Thank you for the kind words Ralph. I will add that I feel there are real advantages to embarking on one's photography business later in life. I was 40 before I had the means to even consider doing this full-time, but more importantly I had a considerable amount of life experience on which to draw. That included a reasonable knowledge of the business world, a fairly well rounded grasp of human nature, and less of the starry eyed stuff which could be a perilous motivator for the young. Before giving up the day job, I spent two years setting up my office and business systems, and researching my products and my market. I was of course also building a credible portfolio. In other words, I didn't launch my business until the main things were in place. Even so, the more involved I became the more I realised that there was so much more to do, but I was very glad I had at least put the groundwork down before taking the plunge. There are far too many photographers out there who will try and run before they can walk, and these are the ones who usually fail.
    Greg has given a very honest and very comprehensive review of the main reasons why one can fail, and that will be useful for newcomers to read. I am also a believer in working as a photographer part-time while one is learning about the tougher side of the industry. In fact there is also a good argument for staying part-time, in many cases.
    Greg mentioned that "there will always be someone who can do a better job for less money". Not necessarily, I would rephrase that as "there will always be someone who can do the job differently". And this is why I keep going on about the need to be unique, and how vital it is to stand out from the others. If you have some unique selling points then not only will that help you to appeal to your clients, you will also have more appeal to your marketing partners and the media. I always tell my students to write a list called "what do I have, that my competitors don't have?". If they can't think of anything current, then I encourage them to think about what steps they might be able to take both now and in the future to fulfil that objective. And I do not mean things like "I am cheaper than everyone else".

    Writing a business plan can sound incredibly tedious, and in reality it doesn't have to be reams of charts and boring data. But I think it's vital that anyone thinking of setting up a photography business (or indeed any business) prepares a document setting out exactly what has been spent to date, and what will need to be spent over the coming three years; capital assets and depreciation, IT needs, marketing costs, insurances, training etc etc. Against this must be realistic targets of how much business can be brought in, together with an appraisal of how much must be earned from each client in terms of charges and profit. This is hypothetical without a marketing plan since you cannot have one without the other. I would then recommend staring at both those documents every day for several months because unless the contents are set in the forefront of your mind, one can continue to make poor decisions.

    There is also much to be said for diversification. I would preface this with the need to be very good at one particular discipline first, but it's quite commonplace for excellent wedding photographers to also undertake portraiture and commercial photography. I have very little involvement in weddings these days, and what I do is based on portraits, including animal portraits, corporate portraiture, training and mentoring, and writing articles for photography magazines and journals. This can all add to your repertoire and income stream. And once again, it can become another unique selling point.
     
  44. So many of your points are well-stated, Lindsay. Actually, everyone's comments here have been incredibly insightful. I've just read this entire thread, and really have to commend everyone for sharing their personal experiences, and for their excellent input. This is perhaps one of the most valuable threads ever posted on this forum, especially for newcomers (thanks for starting it, Greg!). It's also comforting to hear others' stories, and the (sometimes, long) road some have taken to get to where they are now. Similar to you, Lindsay, while keeping my day job, I've been "preparing" for about the last two years. And, like a couple of others here, I also have a graphic design background, and although I still need to finish setting up my online presence, at least I have the skills to produce those assets in-house. My portfolio is still lacking appropriate content, which has been the biggest stumbling block so far, but I've been continuing to work on developing a viable marketing strategy for my anticipated vocation. Here's a few things I've noticed:
    • Doing some casual field research, I've found that many event photographers are now combining stills and video in their packages. Including both services in your business plan (even if merely sub-contracted), seems prudent.
    • Certain market segments may not be obvious (e.g., low-income families tend to spend a disproportionate amount of money on culturally important events).
    • Contrary to the usual Craig's list fare, some un-skilled photographers and videographers are charging as much as incredibly skilled ones.
    • Some of the upper-middle income Gen-Xers I know, are still spending big bucks on professional photographers (e.g., $4,000-$5,000) for their weddings.
    • Most higher-end photographers are shooting either with an assistant, or a second shooter, or both.
    • Sure, technology may have lowered barriers to entry for amateur photographers, but these same innovations also enable additional opportunities to wedding businesses.
    • Social media is here to stay--how do we benefit, exploit, capitalize on this technology?
    • Digital technology has revolutionized/changed many industries: graphic design, video editing, music production. Yet many designers, editors, and recording engineers still make rates commensurate with their skill and experience.
    Yes, consumer preferences and behavior, the tools of production, social, demographic and economic factors are changing. How well we accommodate, exploit, and/or capitalize on these changes will be the key determinant of our success or failure.
     
  45. Great article, thanks for sharing it.
     
  46. Which article?
     
  47. If you used to have a pretty good business and it's dropped off, there may be a simple reason. You're invisible. If you go to Google and type in "Wedding Photography" plus your city and state, you'll know why you are, or are not, getting bookings.
     
  48. Greg,

    I found your post insightful to read. In my own venture into the photography arena, I have found similar patterns, albeit within different photographic industries. That being said, I believe wholeheartedly that it is possible to become successful as an artist but perhaps not strictly as a photographer. The case of supply vs demand seems to weigh heavily in today's economy and for a person to succeed in the field, I feel that they have to remain open to alternatives, persistent in their dreams and become savvy in marketing and business techniques.

    Lastly, a person has to really, really love the field :eek:)

    - Jean
     
  49. Hi Greg,
    Great posting, though a bit sad. I found the same trends in the market I operate - Toronto, Canada. Today, as many famous photographers said it, it is more important to master marketing and sales than photography. It's said but true. If in the past you were a good photographer if you could get a good exposure, today any kid with a cellphone can obtain a decent photo. So, what does a pro wedding photographer has to do?
    The following pieces of advice come from famous photographers and you don't have to agree with them:
    1) differentiate through lighting and posing
    2) network network network
    3) give back to society: help charities, churches and schools so that you do more than weddings and burn out
    4) raise prices whenever you can. Many photographers book weddings at low rates only to have tens of inquiries for the same date. If you have been fully booked in June, July, August for 10 years in a row, chances are you will be booked next year so do not book cheap weddings
    5) offer albums and prints even if you were to include them in your packages at cost. They are a good conversation starter whenever a friend visit your clients and will bring referrals
    6) offer amazing service
    7) never give up. If you love wedding photography and you can not pay your bills yet, get a job and keep doing what you are doing best. Your passion and talent will convince your clients you are the right person for the job
    I hope you will never give up photography! I heard that Mr. Sanders (KFC) visited 1006 people before someone bought his recipe...
    Calin
     
  50. Greg I hope you decide to at least hang in there and maybe second shoot for awhile longer until you can build up a network. And keep in mind most businesses basically don't turn a profit for at least the first 5 years so maybe you just need to hang in there but re-assess and come up with a new strategy.
    Here are my thoughts. I think part of your problem from what I am reading is that you need to target maybe a higher end client from the get go and maybe figure out how to weed out low ballers who bail on you during your first interview with them. One of the best things I came across is "Not everyone is your client." Plus if you are competing down in the weeds at the low end you will find it more saturated including "uncle Bob and his Rebel". I think to do that you also need to figure out a niche "gimmick" for lack of a better word that will not only separate you from the low end but will give the client the impression that what they are paying for is worth it. What is the difference between Motel 6 and the Ritz? The experience. Both have a bed and a bathroom. It is the experience that people pay for. I think trying something more service oriented in terms of strategy is better then trying to duke it out on price.
    Personally part of my plan to start is I am networking with some local photographers I know (and a board game designer with a photographer friend) and looking to start shooting with them if I can. Part of my "gimmick" is I shoot film. It is kind of funny. Film in the eye of the public has in some ways developed not only the stereotypical hipster cool factor but almost a magical quality with the younger crowd who have not even seen a film camera at home and it produces a look that brings about nostalgia for the older crowd that still likes to pass around physical prints. Plus you cut out alot of the self styled amateurs from your competitors because most would be lost if they can't chimp every shot. I think it also in some ways breeds a more skilled and confident photographer. I know it steps up my game personally. I have to know I nailed it when I push the shutter button. I can't look and second guess myself. I am sure it is the same with others. I remember Joe Buissink mentioning in an interview that with his second shooters that shoot digital he tapes up the LCD on the back of their cameras with gaffers tape for exactly that reason. Also with different film stocks you can give your clients a variety of different looks to their photos. Personally whether it is Nikon, Canon, Pentax, etc the sensors are nearly all the same, everyone uses Photoshop or Lightroom and everything comes out looking the same. And with Photoshop uncle Bob with his Rebel can product the same work. I think once again we need to find something to distinguish ourselves from the pack. Part of that for me is shooting film. It also cuts down on my work load. I drop off my film at the lab instead of spending 8 hours in front of my computer in software. That and I don't get spending that time in post trying to get my digital images to look the way they do straight out of my Koni Omega and EOS-1N. Feels like make work to me. Plus I got my Koni Omega kit and my Canon film gear for less in total then what I would have paid for a used 5D body. Plus as a new business person I can't afford a new DSLR every 5 years (the current stated shelf life) and the constant computer and software upgrades. My Canon is about 14 years old and flawless and my Koni Omega Rapid 100 is older then I am and works perfectly and both render beautiful images. And as for people asking for the RAW files or digital copies of their photos my sense seems to be most people have no clue what to do with them and they slowly suffer from bit rot on some HDD. Most people probably ask for them because Bridal Weekly said they should. I also see marketing as a film photographer you can kind of play up the artistic "hand made" idea. People don't buy a handmade Rolls Royce because mass produced robot assembled cars suck. There is a perceived value in stuff that is crafted with a more personal and physical touch. That alone will usually weed out the people who could care less and will attract people who do care about the difference and are willing to fork over the money for it.
    If you shoot digital I am sure there are other things you can do to differentiate yourself from others. It is not to my taste but some people really love absolutely wild and surreal HDR for their wedding photographs. Personally I think that might not seem so cool in 30 or 40 years like baby blue leisure suits for for example but if it is something you enjoy you can really make a stand with that and really create a niche. But a big thing is selling yourself. If they saw your work and like it the work has already sold itself. You probably want to figure out what it is you can do that is different. Oh and show the clients what you want them to buy. If all you show them during consultations is slideshows of the wedding don't be surprised if that is your biggest seller.
    I admit I am just starting myself and I might fall flat on my face. Who knows. But I am just giving advice that seems logical to me and that was also passed on to me by people who run successful businesses of their own. There are some things are are universal.
     
  51. "bridal magazines ... assume that articles on what to look for in a wedding photographer are scarce in these publications."
    Perhaps there should be such an article here, or in a wiki or presented to several such publications?
    And scare did seem a good typo.
     
  52. Quote: I just shake my head when a bride is willing to pay 800.00 for a photo booth but balks at paying a thousand for a basic photo coverage. It's always been that way in the wedding industry. The majority of brides will pay for the things that their guests will see. /Quote

    Then, sell the photo booth. As photographers, we need to stop trying to force 'our' vision and standards down the throats of those who don't / can't appreciate it. Learn to read a prospect/lead, ask questions about budget and expectations and MAKE IT EASY for the bride to enjoy her day with WHAT IS IMPORTANT TO HER.

    This, coming from the guy who's heavily discounted weddings for friends (with a 50% "satisfaction rate"; my cheapest wedding was the one that is most maligned to this day, so...lesson learned) and one who prefers to shoot film vs. digital b/c it is easier to get stuff wrong (personal decision; already in counseling, so don't try to change my mind, lol).

    In short - LISTEN TO THE MARKET. If the market wants photo booths vs. second shooters, DO IT. Offer a full package, make the buying experience EASY and LOW STRESS (what bride-to-be doesn't want THAT?).

    And --- don't rely on the traditional profit drivers to be there for you. If you can position a photo booth for a wedding, why not a homecoming dance, a bar mitzvah, a birthday, a prom, etc....?

    Be an imager...and not just a photographer...but most of all, OFFER SOLUTIONS.

    -- Advice from a dumb sales guy who works from home and makes money helping customers decide to do things that most would find very common-sense....
     
  53. "I think you can learn at least as much from failure as you can success." You will learn much, much more. Good judgment comes from experience, and experience comes from poor judgment.

    Remember Teddy Roosevelt's "Far better it is to dream mighty dreams............................."

    My digital wedding packages started at $1600 for four hours and went to $3600 for the "Platinum Package." It was a reasonably profitable venture until everyone and their cousin became "professional photographers" with the availability of sub $2000 digital cameras. Digital changed the wedding business as well as the news business, as far as photography is concerned. I see ads now for wedding photography for $300 for unlimited time and unlimited images. Not to mention DJ's for $100 a night. I guess to make money in weddings nowadays it would be better to bake the $5000 cakes.

    Change is inevitable, so now I shoot film again for personal satisfaction, and have great fun.

    It's the very fortunate individual who is able to make a good living doing only what they love. Most have to do what they have to do to be successful and then use that success to be able to do what they love.

    Learning to live in and to enjoy the present moment, whatever it may entail, is the key to happiness, so some have said.

    To the OP: congratulations on having the courage to put your dream into action, regardless of its outcome, and best wishes for your next adventure in this wondrous life.
     
  54. Brandon Ward said it well!
    (Brandon Ward , Aug 26, 2015)
    Whether you are a wedding photographer, sports photographer, photo journalist, etc. You need to
    widen your vision and passion. Very few people can afford to specialize. We all know the top 1%-3%
    who can make a living doing only one type of photography, but for me that would be so boring. Mix
    it up. As Brandon said, offer photo booths, offer other services that are trending. OR create a network
    of other people, or businesses, that offer something you do not, or cannot afford, and make them a
    part of your team.
    Our policy is "Yes". We always say yes first and then find a way to make it
    happen. In this day and age when anyone can find anything they want on the internet or one or two
    phone calls or texts away, you have to be ready to be their one stop shop. Yes, I know it does not
    sound as glamorous, and sexy, as saying "I do only ...". But, are you running a business or not!? In
    business you do not say no to any opportunity. You leap. And yes, sometimes, it may seem like you
    are leaping without looking, but with a good network of other talented people an email or text away,
    there is nothing you cannot do.
    We started with elementary portraits. That was our passion. Cute kids, cute smiles, appreciative
    parents. Well, we then started getting requests for sports, groups, graduation, AND weddings. Well,
    we never said no. Yes, we stumbled. A LOT! But, the only way to learn is to do it.
    I wish all you photographers out there success and joy. But always remember you HAVE TO BE A
    BUSSINESS PERSON as well as a photographer.
    Business name and irrelevant image removed
     
  55. I smiled when I read 'Part of my "gimmick is I shoot film' from Daniel Stewart. Any decent photographer can reproduce the look of film from a digital file.
    As a previous poster stated you produce what the bride wants not want you like doing. I can imagine what a bride will say when she gets only a handful of photos from a film shooter when her friend got 500. That's the world we live in now.
    Sure shoot film for yourself but not for a wedding. Be interesting to hear from Daniel in a couple of years as to what his gimmick has achieved. Best of luck with that.
     
  56. I haven't had a chance to read the whole thread but I will respond to Joe Morris. Joe - when did you last shoot film and digital side-by-side? On a cursory level we can reproduce the look of certain film types, at least to an extent (and whether we feel we have reproduced that on digital will largely depend on our experience with both, and how discerning we are). But whenever I shoot film I am always struck by how different the results are. Of course there are still clients who like the thought of having their wedding committed to film, just as there are many customers out there who will pay a premium to purchase a chair carved using traditional methods, over a mass produced 'equivalent'. Ask any cabinetmaker or antique dealer.
    And you are very wrong that a photographer's style and working methods are always dictated by their customers. That should never be the case (unless you occupy a market level where creativity is not a requirement). At the higher end of the market or the niche end of the market, that is unworkable. A bride goes to a photographer because the style of that photographer resonates with her particular sense of aesthetic. Then there are brides who simply shop on price. A bride wanting a disc containing 500 images is hardly going to approach a niche film photographer who will be giving her 30 prints hand mounted, and provided in a hand carved box.
    If a bride comes to me wanting a vintage themed shoot, with faded and tinted processing, then I know I am not the photographer for her. That is not me failing to cater to my customers. Quite the contrary - if you're in business as a photographer you need to understand who your key clients are, and you market your offerings to them. Not the other way round.
    I know several photographers who routinely produce weddings on film for their customers. They have no shortage of clients, they understand those clients, and they know where to find them. And vice versa. If Daniel fails in his venture, and it has nothing to do with his 'gimmick' and everything to do with his failure to understand and market that sector.
     
  57. I stick by what I said in my previous article, any decent digital photographer can reproduce the look of film, end of story.
    That's why so many photographers are going out of business because they are doing what they want, i.e. shot film and other gimmicks, and not want the brides want. The number of couples who ask for film you can probably count on one hand.
    Times are changing and too many people are not.
    I did not state 'that a photographer's style and working methods are always dictated by their customers'. They pick a photographer for his style and methods but he still has to produce what the bride wants.
    Why would I shoot film and digital together, I don't ride a horse and buggy and then compere it to my car. I have a beautiful digital camera that has fantastic abilities why would I be hog tied and shoot film.
     
  58. I'm going to be very blunt.
    It takes less than 40 hours to process your -average- wedding. Start to finish.
    When the average income is around $50k /yr for most people. $3k-10k for a week's work ain't bad. And believe me, working not nearly as hard as many people.
    This reminds me of the internet in it's infancy when web designers worked very hard to maintain a mystery about what it took to build a website. And they took advantage of the moment by egregious gouging. Many years later everything reached it's point of natural equilibrium, and websites have become free or amazingly inexpense, yet well designed.
    Though consistently good photography takes skill, and sometimes talent, it's not rocket science so much as stategy, luck, and intuition. That's getting hard to find as I sort through dozens of website databases showing the same old overdone subject matter.
    The cause of many quality wedding photographers resigning as starving artist, is more often than not, due to something missing in their business model.
    All in all there will always be the cheap, the expensive, and the mediocre. If you want to succeed, you have to pick your market and forget this whole business of justifying your price to a customer....
     
  59. I have been reading people's comments from the very start of “Calling It Quits” and like everything in life; there are some good and not so good points that have been raised.
    However, regardless of how much a wedding photographer is worth, can or should be charging, the most important point is that we all have to start at the beginning, be it film or digital. Moreover, if we learn from our mistakes we can improve and become better.
    Other people have mentioned that times have changed and that photographers need to move with the changing times. if all photographers did move with the times would the Wedding photography market still continue to shrink?
    The one thing that will never change is what people want, if you can offer this at a price they are willing to pay, you will find the work, you just have to decide the right market in terms of the prices you can charge.
    Quality never go’s out of fashion for the people who appreciate quality and for the people who see this in a photographer’s work they will be willing to pay for it. However, for the photographers that made a very good living in the “Old Day’s” perhaps some of them just became complacent?
    The one thing that is very difficult to pass on is experience, especially when people are told that they can’t do something, so for every "I Can't' there will be "I Can" and that has to be a positive thing.
    “It is better to have tried and failed, than not tried at all” which was what I was told growing up.
     

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