How does a hobbyist photographer attract potential customers?

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by amcknight, Oct 8, 2018.

  1. I am soliciting advice.

    I am a hobbyist photographer who enjoys shooting small weddings. I understand the technical aspects of photography and I know how to use a camera. I do not want to be a full time, professional photographer; I have a full time job, but I enjoy the extra money that I can earn shooting on a part time basis. My questions are:
    How do I convey to potential customers that I am not a professional? Do I state this on my website/portfolio?
    Should I invest in a website or simply display my photos on a gallery site, like Smugmug, Pixieset, etc?

    Thanks in advance for your help.
  2. You either ARE a professional photographer or you shouldn't be taking from money people in exchange for photographing their weddings.

    You can be a part-time photographer and still be professional. Nobody wants a "hobbyist" to shoot their wedding. Your clients are going to hold you to a higher standard then their "uncle Jack" photographer and the very best way to get yourself in serious trouble is not acting like a business, a professional, when working with paying clients. You are far more likely to end up in court over contract matters if don't have contracts. Learn the business side of things. Taxes? Both sales and income (income at the federal, state and local levels). Insurance? What happens if a light stand tips and hits somebody on the head or someone trips over one of your cameras? What happens when your new camera is stolen from your car? Hint: Your auto insurance will not cover gear if you are using it professionally and it's insurance fraud not to tell them.

    Are you starting to get the idea?

    I wouldn't recommend investing in a full blown website in order to get started. Brides today don't care where they see your pictures. Set up a business site on Facebook.

    As for telling people that you are "part-time", use it as a selling point. You're not trying to pay your mortgage or car loan on your photography money. You're not feeding your kids with it so you can afford to keep expenses down and pass the discounted price on to them.

    Now . . . My VERY SERIOUS ADVICE . . . Don't do this until you have a serious number of weddings under your belt. Go find a photographer who needs a second shooter or a studio that will train you to be a first shooter. This isn't easy work if you are doing it right. There's stress, there's nervous brides and mothers, there are shot lists and set ups. Most things only happen once and you have to get the shot or risk asking the bride to throw the bouquet again. The days can be long and need to be alert and keep a smile on your face all of the time. Even the 13th time that somebody asks you to get pictures of the ring bearer running around on the dance floor pretending to dance . . .
  3. When I was a pup, carpenters hated firemen.

    The way fireman hours were set up, they had lots of time to take on part-time jobs, and since their livelihood was fire-fighting, they could afford to work for very low wages.

    Just saying.....
    doug grosjean and ed_farmer like this.
  4. "You either ARE a professional photographer or you shouldn't be taking from money people in exchange for photographing their weddings."

    I agree with Ed Farmer 200% on this. Never, never practice on paying customers. You become a "professional" the minute you start charging. There is no such thing as "semi-pro" just because it's not a full time job.
  5. Well lets get one thing straight here you are not a Professional because you do not make 50% of your living doing weddings or photography for that matter. It is 100% on the individual who hires you to determine whether or not they like your work regardless of your experience. Personally your are asking for trouble pursuing professional wedding photography without the necessary experience. One day it might bite you in the butt but I wish you well and all who hires you. Good luck friend.
    robert_bowring likes this.
  6. Nope . . . Not true in the least . . .
  7. Correct! Professional has nothing to do with what proportion of your income derives from photography, it has to do with your business and technical practices. If you are unclear on this, I suggest reading "ASMP Professional Business Practices in Photography" It describes how a professional operates his/her business and how he/she delivers and supports the work. It doesn't mention how much money you make from the practice.
    doug grosjean likes this.
  8. I guess we will have to disagree on what a professional is. Any person can operate a part time business and have good business practices and treat customers fairly but that does not make them a professional in that feild.
  9. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Certainly "professional" can have different meanings: as can many words.

    The salient point is, for the purposes of addressing the OP's question, any debate concerning what the word "professional" means, is null once the disagreeing parties firstly define their own meaning and secondly acknowledge the difference in how they are each using the word.

    This has happened, so it should be quite clear to the OP how the word "professional" is being interpreted and used, by each respondent, above.

    That settled - there seems little need to pursue an argument upon that particular definition

    michaelmowery likes this.
  10. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Advice that you’ve solicited in sections, with questions you might care to address here:

    Q1.How do you respond to a Prospect who is planning a medium or large Wedding?


    Q2. How do you respond to a Prospect who is planning a Wedding which would coincide (time-wise) with an imperative obligation for your ‘full time job’.
    Q3. How do you respond to a Client (i.e. a booked Wedding), when you ‘full time job’ springs upon you, the need for your attendance?
    Q.4 Photography aspects aside, both technical and creative, how developed and refined is your business acumen and people management skills (the latter relates to managing people to enable the job done, when people are in emotive situations)


    I advise that you not use the word ‘professional’ in that conversation.

    It is better to describe exactly what you are and what you are available to do, in simple words - e.g.

    "I am a hobbyist photographer who enjoys shooting small weddings, I understand the technical aspects of photography and I know how to use a camera. I do not want to be a full time, photographer"

    Additionally there will be other matters which you need to disclose to your Prospects and also before Clients sign contracts, but when that disclosure takes place is somewhat dependent upon how you address the questions that I have asked. As an example only - you might reside in a relatively small community and it might already be common knowledge that you are proficient with a camera and available to do the small weddings here and there . . . on the other hand . . .


    Q5. How are you getting your Wedding jobs now?
    Q6. How many Weddings have you done?
    Q7. Over what time frame?
    Q8. Can you realistically cope with more jobs?

    The point is, you want to solicit advice on some detailed specifics of your part-time business: if you want a quality answer on that topic, then, for at the least for me, I need you to provide much more information, thanks.

  11. Sticking to the definition: "Being professional means getting the job done" I suggest trying to stress that you are the most professional guy, sepecialized in doing just *insert your yada yada*.

    Clarifying: There are standards to adhere to. - Shame on you, if you aren't able to deliver what you are advertising on your backup kit!

    What I called "your yada yada" should really be everything that describes the business you are confident about being doable for you. You can and should mention having a full time main job and what that means to your customers (example): "I'll do 4 weddings per year and editing 60 shots takes me one week". "look at my portfolio and give me a call." <- mention realistic and for you convenient phone manning hours.
  12. paul ron

    paul ron NYC

    Ed Farmer hit all the points on the nose.
    Take yourself a bit more serious and learn to run a business the right way.
    Take on a part time as an assistant for wedding shoots to learn the ins n out of how its run?

    It looks easy, but believe me, its not only about the shoot n pictures.
    Commercial photography comes with alot of responsibility.
  13. Read and Re-read what Ed Farmer said and take his advice. Everyone, especially the bride and groom, think that wedding photography is easy. Speaking from years of experience I can assure you that it is a lot harder than it looks.
  14. Your 50% definition is too restrictive. A physician who is semi-retired and who earns only 25% of his usual income from medical fees is still a professional.

    Words have both specific meanings and general meanings. In the context of this discussion, the general meaning applies because we want to differentiate between amateur (hobbyist) and professional photography.

    In an occupationsl context, whether a photographer works full-time, part-time or ocassionally, the following definition of “professional” applies:

    A person who practices an art, a sport or any other activity for the purpose of earning money, in opposition to a person who is motivated by personal pleasure and who does not thereby derive any income.
    Charles_Webster likes this.
  15. Excuse me, if that is true, What could define the "professional" at all?
    Was the too narrow definition.
  16. Didn't say I had a good definition, but that doesn't mean income has to be generated, since it obviously doesn't, when a professional donates his time.

    I think, as I said, income can be a key, but not necessary. I'd go with the Merriam Webster dictionary of profession and then say that a professional is one who is involved in a profession.

    Profession: a calling requiring specialized knowledge and often long and intensive preparation.
  17. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Moderator Note - we've been round the circle (again) on the definition of "professional".

    Provided that the OP has a clear understanding of what each of you means by the word "professional" then the OP and others will understand each individual's advice and their comment.

    Debating or arguing which definition of 'professional' is correct or incorrect: is off topic.

    Charles_Webster likes this.
  18. I am going to disagree here.

    I suspect that there are plenty of people who can't afford a professional photographer, but who would still like wedding pictures.
    The ones who have their friends do as much of the work as possible, maybe including cooking some food for a reception.

    When I am invited to a wedding as guest, I always bring a camera, and I suspect many other guests do, also.
    So, I do have some practice, though no professional experience.

    You might start out doing a few for free. Assuming you already have enough equipment, or can afford to buy some, the only cost to you is supplies (and time).

    The you can do some for just the cost of supplies, or a little more.

    But yes, don't promise what you can't be reasonably sure of delivering.

    Professionals will have back-up cameras, another shooter or two, and some other expensive equipment you don't have.
    They get paid to use that equipment, and to cover its cost.

    People who can't afford that, still have a right to reasonable photographs, at a reasonable price.
  19. Do you listen to what you are saying? A semi retired person is obviously not going to make what they made when they were full time. Even though their income is now 25% of what they used to make full time they are still making 100% income from their semi retired earnings. The dollar amount of money made is irrelevant. Responsibly, reliability, good business practices, insurance coverage, and decency all contribute to being a professional by all means.
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 27, 2018
  20. Let the Bride decide.
    If she can pick a mate for life, she can pick someone to take photographs of the event.
    Honesty on the part of the guy taking the photos about what he has to offer is a simple enough concept.
    stuart_pratt likes this.

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