The business of Wedding Photography... Help and Advice Needed.

Discussion in 'Wedding and Event' started by craigh_bennett, Dec 7, 2010.

  1. Hi there,
    I am posting this message to get some feedback from you guys about starting up my wedding photography business.
    Keeping it brief... I did 10 weddings for free to build up my portfolio... I then built up my website and researched the industry and took as much as i could in. My prices start at £1050 including all images on a DVD.
    What I am worried about though is am I charging too much considering I am starting up in business or does this seem a fair starting point? Because I keep reading in many places I should charge what I feel my work is worth?
    I would also like any feedback on how easy you find it to navigate around my site and also feedback on the images on it.
    http://www.cbweddings.co.uk
    I would really appreciate it.
    Regards
    Craigh
     
  2. First of all, how did you arrive at the 1050 mark? I mean, is that the result of some level of financial analysis which indicated that at this price level you covered all your expenses, your costs, taxes, insurance and so on and so forth and left over enough to compensate you for your time? If that is the case, then your price is fine - as long as there are people willing to pay it. You see, photography, much like beauty, is in the eyes of the beholder, and as such nobody can tell you you're charging too much or too little.
    However, if the figure is arbitrary, then you should seriously go back to the drawing board. Sit down with a financial planner/consultant, make a solid business plan, account for ALL those costs 99% of the people just stating out NEVER do, include cost of money and then see if the figure still stands. Use your experience to judge how long it will take you to complete a wedding (including post processing and delivery) and take that into account too.
    Whoever said that the business of photography has NOTHING to do with photography was wiser than any of us give him/her credit for. There have been literally dozens of posts here with advice for someone just starting out - hell, I've written more than enough myself here...;-) Check them out, read them carefully and you;ll have most of your answers (and maybe even more).
     
  3. Whoever said that the business of photography has NOTHING to do with photography​
    Thanks Marios, that was me :)...and others who recognize the difference.
    It is a basic concept that I will hammer on every time I see this sort of question.
    Craigh,
    Before I forget. Those 10 free weddings you did?...Don't provide those people as references to new clients. Use the images, but do not allow your new prospects contact with them. Why?
    I can hear it now, "Oh ya, he did my wedding for free."..and now all of a sudden you want how much?
    As so much has been written and reinforced by many, I'll be brief so you can research these topics.
    1) Develop a business plan. (This is the most difficult aspect)
    2) Develop a marketing plan.
    3) Research your competition.
    4) Answer the question "why should I hire you?"
    If you feel your images will be enough to keep the profits rolling, you would be wrong.
    I've seen better work than yours and I've seen work far worse.
    In both instances, I've seen the great and not so great photographer make a lot of money.
     
  4. Craigh,
    Length of experience should not be a basis for your fees. There are many "seasoned" photographers who may not deliver the quality of work and service that you do. Listen to the others above....-TED :)
     
  5. Whoever said that the business of photography has NOTHING to do with photography​
    I'm not so sure that I buy into that. For me, it has everything to do with photography, and the business follows. Sure, you have to put a lot of work into the business, marketing etc. aspects, but I think they should follow the photography. It's 80% about the photography, 20% about the business.
    So:
    1) Develop a business plan. (This is the most difficult aspect)
    2) Develop a marketing plan.​
    I'm with General von Moltke on this: "No plan survives contact with the enemy". By all means have a plan, think things through as much as you can, make contacts, market etc. But real life won't follow your plan. Don't expect it to. To take another (pseudo-)military aquote, courtesy of Clint Eastwood this time: "You're Marines now. You adapt. You overcome. You improvise."
    Plans are fun to draw up in idle moments, and bank managers like them, but don't put too much faith in them yourself. Market, network, get work wherever you can find it, save money, invest it wisely, work your butt off.

    3) Research your competition.​
    And then try and do something a bit different.
    4) Answer the question "why should I hire you?​
    Because of your photography, and because you do something a bit different. Obsess about how to make the photography better, make sure you show that photography, make friends, and sooner or later the business will follow.
     
  6. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    What I am worried about though is am I charging too much considering I am starting up in business or does this seem a fair starting point?​
    Whilst you remain worried about this and display such a lack confidence in yourself, you will not give your business an even chance of survival.
    To keep it brief and to the point: you need a Bloody Good Mirroring.
    Bend over give yourself a good boot in the pants, dust yourself off and get out and begin marketing and selling your product and skill.
    Do you think that Andrew Strauss stepped onto the Adelaide Oval, with doubt, like you have?
    I would also like any feedback on how easy you find it to navigate around my site and also feedback on the images on it.​
    The website was easy for me to navigate.
    The images (comment as an overall impression):
    I found too many B&W. I like B&W photography, but I question whether having so many is a good selling tool, when starting up a business?
    I found too many were centre centric compositionally, but most were clean and balanced and most conveyed a good feeling and a sense of Wedding and Occasion.
    I question a few on focus.
    Some of the B&W conversions lack mid-tone contrast, which is a comment I make often. I don’t think B&W is understood properly by many who have only used the digital medium – this comment might apply to you, I don’t know.
    Some of what you scribed for your website, contradicts what you have written here: get to that mirror, is my best advice.
    WW
     
  7. There is no right or wrong here. Simon's 80-20 split may be his own way of doing things. This is not something that has a formula. There are many who are making lots of money in photography doing 20-80. Are they right or wrong? If a formula works for you and you're happy, it's right....-TED :)
     
  8. There is no right or wrong here. Simon's 80-20 split may be his own way of doing things. This is not something that has a formula​
    You're right of course. The 80:20 thing was just something I pulled off the top of my head and is pretty meaningless. In practise I spend more time than that on the business side. But I've increasingly come to the conclusion that that's wrong - it's best to concentrate efforts on the photography, the rest will follow (with some hard work of course).
     
  9. "You're Marines now. You adapt. You overcome. You improvise."
    Well, it sounds good in the movies."Mr Smith Goes to Washington" is a nice movie, though I fear politics does not work out the way portrayed in that movie.
    Simon, your advice is contradictory.
    You say place emphasis on the photography and then go on to say work hard, have a plan etc...
    I know of not a single person in business, photography or anything else that can or will survive on the 20/80...or 20% biz, 80% photography; it is simply not going to happen.
    Now if someone is simply seeking a little extra income, sure, it can work...but without some serious business acumen and practicing cost analysis, budgeting, marketing etc?...I think not.
    Without a plan all we have is a wish.
    W/o a map we will never get there, and even if we do, how do we know we've arrived.
    Voodoo economics is the worst way to conduct business.
    I primarily earn my living in editorial stock, although the past 4 yrs have presented commercial opportunities.
    After 20 yrs earning my living in this, I can tell you I work just as hard now as I did 20 yrs ago. Just maintaining my long term clients is full time work.
    If anyone is serious about their business, they WILL develop a business plan, a marketing plan..stick with it, adjust it, fine tune it, analyze it every 3 to 4 months.
    If you can't track your progress, you are not conducting business in a serious sense.
     
  10. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    "Voodoo economics is the worst way to conduct business."​
    :) I'll borrow that, please.
     
  11. You say place emphasis on the photography and then go on to say work hard, have a plan etc...​
    Exactly. The photography comes first, then you work hard to make it happen and get the work in front of people.
    I know of not a single person in business, photography or anything else that can or will survive on the 20/80...or 20% biz, 80% photography; it is simply not going to happen.​
    I know a few, and they are the most successful ones I know.
    The problem is - the business side is actually easy. It's too seductive. You can spend endless time, effort and money sitting at your computer developing plans, making budgets, sending emails, calculating income and expenditure. It's easier and more mechanical than actually having ideas and going out and taking pictures. You don't even have to think about it too much. But most of the really successful photographers I know of seem to concentrate their efforts on being creative rather than on business plans.
    There is little point in intenselymarketing pictures that editors have seen a million times before. It's much easier to do your marketing and draw up a nice profit and loss account (one that actually has profit in it, not just loss) if picture buyers are clamouring at your door. Of course marketing, managing money, and networking is very important - but it's a hundred times easier if it follows the photography rather than the photography follow the marketing. I noticed with some of my favourite photographer friends, that with the most successful ones the picture buyers, curators, agents, clients - come to them.
    I keep seeing it - you can send hundreds of emails, market yourself blue in the face, spend many tens of thousands of dollars, and get little or no response. But take something that people really like and want, and you will need to do little marketing, picture editors will be getting in touch with you, people will be paying good money for your pictures, institutions will start funding your personal projects, maybe even if you take really interesting stuff funding your exhibitions. You can use those funded projects and exhibitions as marketing to make income.
    I read an interesting interview with Max Wanger a while ago about how he started off as a wedding/engagement photographer. If I remember correctly basically his first foray into it was doing an extremely creative engagement shoot for a well known blogger. Progress from that first shoot to fame seemed to be stellar if that interview was anything to go by (can't immediately find it via Google, but it's probably out there). Worth a hundred business plans, I would have thought.
     
  12. p.s. I should stress I don't mean that the business side isn't important. You need to do it too.
    But the photography is the horse, and the business side is the cart. If you put the cart in front of the horse, progress down the road is going to be painfully slow and sooner or later you will land in the ditch.
     
  13. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    "the business side is actually easy. It's too seductive"​
    :) and that too, please.
     
  14. “The 80:20 thing was just something I pulled off the top of my head and is pretty meaningless.”

    If that's the case, then why even bother to post the comment?
    Craigh, the website was pretty easy to navigate however I'd prefer to have some thumbnails on your folio gallery. I agree with WW that the folio is heavy with B&W images. Also suggest that you replace your portrait on your "about" page with one where you are dressed more appropriately and a little more polished/cleaned-up. Not sure just how prestigious the WPJA is but I guess you can sell yourself that way. Good luck.
     
  15. I can see my website just needs tweeking but i think the real way to get started is to just get out there speaking to vendors etc as William said... I think the thing that has held me back from doing that is i've called a few and I just get told they already deal with a photographer.
    I will keep on at it! :)
    Thanks
    Craigh
     
  16. No, the comment was aimed at people with the basic intelligence to understand that you can't put a precise percentage on such things and who don't need the blindingly obvious spelling out to them. Don't worry about it David.
     
  17. am I charging too much considering I am starting up in business or does this seem a fair starting point?​
    That depends upon one thing. Are people hiring you? If so your price is o.k. (and you could possibly increase it or offer more comprehensive packages) If not then you may have to adjust it.
     
  18. I will disagree with Simon in the "the photography is the horse and the business is the cart" as an analogy, simply because while talent in making images is, indeed, paramount, without the business acumen to support, frame and sustain it, it will NEVER make anything more than a little pocket money and MAY end up costing more (say in the event of a lawsuit resulting from non-properly phrased contracts or failure to meet obligations due to scheduling and timing errors).
    If anything, and if you do need an analogy, think of the engine in a car. That is what photography is - what provides the power, but without the frame, without the wheels, the steering, the brakes, etc, etc, the engine is nothing more than an engineering marvel and will NOT go anywhere...
    Simon, nobody said that you should put business AHEAD of photography in terms of constant prioritisation, simply that you need to address the business issues BEFORE you go out and claim you're a professional photographer AND start charging people for it. Once you have a business system set up and running, trust me, you don't spend all that much time on it - at least not to the extend you mention. Sure, in early autumn you WILL need to send those 500 e-mails to ensure that you have jobs around Xmas time. Sure you will need to socialise with waaaaaay too many people for comfort to ensure your name, personality and approach is known and preferred BEFORE people start calling you up for their wedding.
    And you WILL, undoubtedly, need to spend at least 1 or 2 hours a day taking care of your accounts, making sure your invoices go out on time and with the right information, chasing down payments, MAKING payments, trcking down prospects and offers you may have made and so on and so forth. Any professional who ACTUALLY TOLD you s/he did NOT do that I would be highly suspicious of - and the capitals are BECAUSE I know they didn't, simply because, the more successful you are, chances are you spend even MORE time on these "menial" tasks...
    Oh, and one final thing: I LOVED the military quote...however, isn't it strange that it came from the FIRST strategic command EVER in the history of warfare to ever created a High Command military council? Whose sole purpose was to plan? And then make plans to back those plans up? And THEN made other plans in case all those OTHER plans failed? Just a thought...;-)
     
  19. On many occasions, I've stated that wedding photography is pretty much 50/50.....50% photography and 50% everything else; which includes people skills, marketing, networking, and other "business" aspects. I've also recommended that if anyone is serious about the business that their best bet is to network with other established (successful) photographers and to complete some type of apprenticeship with an established (successful) studio....along with joining/participating in a professional organization like PPA and/or WPPI. Mario's analogy with the car above is well thought and spot on.
    Craigh, your plan to just get out there and speak with vendors may yield some results. However, you need to be pretty sure that you're prepared to speak with established, successful vendors that have a good deal of experience within the industry. For the most part they've seen the up & coming crowd come and go.....how do you compete with the photographers that they currently refer to?
    Also suggest that you read/follow this nearby thread: http://www.photo.net/wedding-photography-forum/00XoKW and search the archives here at P-net under the marketing category.
     
  20. while talent in making images is, indeed, paramount​
    Agreed Marios. The proposition near the beginning of this thread that "the business of photography has NOTHING to do with photography" is the wrong approach to be successful. Your "talent in making images is paramount" is the right one. Except of course that mere talent in the making of the images is only the beginning of the photography side of it.
    It's not so much a question of counting the number of hours spent on photography versus business, more a question of psychological priorities. The ones who prioritise the creative side are the ones who really succeed. The others bump along the bottom and complain that orders aren't what they used to be (which is heard a lot on this forum).
    And of course, the business side needs doing too and takes a lot of time. You're right that you could well spend an hour or two working on accounts every day. But to succeed you need to be working, 10, 12, 14 or more hours a day. It's quite possible to spend several hours a day on business side. But it's all too easy to let the creative side slip.
    Concentrating on the creative side is just good business. It means a greatly increased return per £ of marketing, more hits on your website, higher Google ranking, being able to charge higher prices per wedding, marketing is done for you for free (profiles in magazines, word of mouth, blogging), and so on and so forth.
     
  21. The more experienced you are in business, the more you realise that you need to lead with your product or service, not with your ability to do business. Everything Simon observes about leading with photography resonates strongly with me.
    ...nobody said that you should put business AHEAD of photography in terms of constant prioritisation, simply that you need to address the business issues BEFORE you go out and claim you're a professional photographer AND start charging people for it.​
    Of course, this is certainly true, but it's also not particularly significant. I would view basic business skills as a given, in line with basic photography skills. The problem is those basic business skills are of no use in growing a business. They merely allow you to run one, which is a very different thing.
    If someone were spending their time chasing invoices rather than making images I'd think they were in the wrong business. Far better to hire someone who can do those things quicker, more effectively, and at lower cost than the business owner. Photographers will get more return on their time if they spend it on growth activities rather than retail administration.
    Successful photographers spend their time making work, showing it to the people they want to hire them, and concentrating on strategic activities that enhance their positioning and exposure. They don't spend their time chasing low value work, or waste energy on basic administration, or dilute their personal focus by taking on incoherent assignments.
     
  22. Its not rocket science. If you want to make wedding photography your sole source of income then the formula is pretty easy...
    Determine whet income you need to live comfortably. Say A$100k pa/40k Pounds
    Work out how many weddings you can do in a year. Say 40. Thats $2500 per wedding.
    Doing one a week for 40 out of 50 weeks in the year. In our dollars, thats about 1000 pounds per wedding.
    Close to what you plan to charge.
    Now for the sanity check: Can your market segment handle a fee of 1000 Pounds per wedding, and can you attract enough business to book 40 weddings a year?
    A$2500 for a professional job is common here for weddings. And definitley don't give the customer ALL your images. 50 is plenty, including 5 fine art quality prints.
     
  23. Say A$100k pa/40k Pounds
    Work out how many weddings you can do in a year. Say 40. Thats $2500 per wedding​
    You forgot to deduct, let's say, somewhere around A$75K/£30k pounds for business expenses? That leaves you with only A$25k/£10k pounds profits.
     
  24. Thats a good way to work it out and that really helps actually. I have been finding it so hard to settle on a price because I am so new to this business. someone said in an earlier post believe in my work and just get out there and sell myself basically but I still feel I need to know that i'm pricing myself sensibly and not over doing it to the point that people think, "you have only shot 15-20 weddings and your charging that!!".
    The thing is i could live off even £20k per year so I don't know whether to charge say maybe even £750 until im established and people start to recommend me or should I go straight in at £1050 for my basic package?
    Any suggestions? Did any of you guys start of extremely low or did you go into the market charging full on prices?
     
  25. or should I go straight in at £1050 for my basic package?​
    So much depends on your local market, so it's hard to know what it can bear. But I would have thought it a reasonable price. Charging too little is not always a good thing - some clients will not appreciate what you do if you are cheap, and some will wonder why you are cheap and avoid you.
    15-20 weddings that you have done is quite a respectable number. And it's an awful lot to have done for free. Don't do yourself down thinking you are inexperienced. I started charging a market rate from my second wedding and no regrets. There are people who have been photographing weddings for decades - plenty of experience - but still produce mediocre photos. They don't seem to have any scruples about charging for their work. It's not about how many weddings you do but what kind of work you produce.
    You have to do what seems to you to be appopriate. Look at what your competitors are producing and how much they're charging, and go from there.
     
  26. Yea i felt it was alot but i wanted to make sure that before i started charging people that I was happy myself with my photography. I started off using on camera flash using one of them Gary Thong ;) light modifier things... but was not satisfied with how it looked... my last few weddings I did completely with natural light and am confident to start charging.
    There is just one more thing that I would like to get advice on... and that is about vendors and venues etc....
    How am I going to be able to contact them and ask them if they would refer me to potential clients without being well established?
    How would I approach this?
    And by the way Simon thanks so much for that advice... and to everyone who has contributed to this post. Its good to get others perspective on things rather than just feeling I am the only one who is going through this! :)
     
  27. Spearhead

    Spearhead Moderator

    Its not rocket science.​
    It's not, but that doesn't make your analysis right in any way.
     
  28. The question of whether the business comes first or the photography comes first is overly simplistic and sophomoric. They are both important and the analysis requires more than a simple sum of hours spent.
    How do you get experienced vendors to stake their professional reputations on referring you business? Good question, why would they? The key lies in developing personal relationships with the vendors rather than simply making contacts. In fact, simply making contacts could easily do more harm than good. In the meantime, concentrate on developing a serious, professional image which leads me back to your self portrait on your website.....and reading the marketing archives here at P-net.
     
  29. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    i think the real way to get started is to just get out there speaking to vendors etc as William said... I think the thing that has held me back from doing that is i've called a few and I just get told they already deal with a photographer.​
    I didn’t mention vendors: but the conversation has developed around them, and it seems that getting out there and marketing to vendors is your focus.
    What I did mention was - getting out there and marketing and selling.
    In regards to being told “no” (by vendors) – that’s life and their loss.
    In regard to Vendors generally: I agree with what DS wrote and that the relationships are important.
    EG my comments here: http://www.photo.net/wedding-photography-forum/00XjWf (Nov 23, 2010; 11:59 p.m.)
    In regards to getting out there and selling and marketing: you mentioned you have done ten Weddings for free.
    Let’s assume each Bride had two Bridesmaids and one Sister, Female Cousin or Female Best Friend outside the Wedding Party.
    That’s a base of Thirty B’Maids + Ten Brides + Ten Mothers’ of the Grooms.
    That’s Fifty Females each who move within a Circle of at least 50 other Females.
    That’s 2500 once removed Contacts and Fifty at your fingertips, whose names you know.
    How many have you marketed to?
    Do you have a marketing strategy, if and when you contact them, or if they contact you?
    You have already given away Ten Wedding Coverages, so you are generous – that’s good.
    Whether it’s too many or too few, I don’t care - it's done.
    What I do care about (and what you should acre about more) is what you harvested from those Ten Weddings . . . and it should have been a lot more than Portfolio Prints.
    Do you have a Business Card?
    What is on the back of it?
    How many do you have on your person, as you read this?
    WW
    (Aside): This is a very interesting thread, with lots of very interesting viewpoints and even better and more interesting one-liners and quips: not the least of which was the retort to: it’s not rocket science.
    And the "value and return on time" comment is a lot deeper and has a more wide ranging meaning than the simple example of (not) chasing invoices - one has to be a Photographer 24/7, even when one is writing the invoice . . .
     
  30. Before answering your very pertienent questions I would like to take a step back and ask you.
    Why do you want to be a wedding photographer? I'm not being flip, it's something I think is important to success. I believe a person's motiviation is critical to being a long term success in wedding photography.
     
  31. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    There are many formulae for working out what to charge based upon how much one needs to live and etc.
    I find them useful for cross checking as I go and also as a template for planning, before I build. – Bank Mangers love them also.
    In really simple terms - and IMO it does not need to be complicated - it is important when using a template, for projection, analysis or planning to include the following elements:
    A. Total Sales (TURNOVER)
    B. Total Cost of Sales (What you need to buy to sell the stuff)
    C. Overheads (Regular Running Costs, Taxation, Superannuation etc)
    D. Wages (i.e. YOUR INCOME)
    The flaw with the analysis above is Total Sales has been equated to Wages. (Income)
    But subsequently “Business Expenses” were noted - and then deducted: and result then termed “Profit.”
    I am not engaging a terminology war – but suffice to say that Profit (Net Profit) is what is remains after the Wages, are also paid.
    This might be seem academic, if the structure is a simple one person business: but it is relevant in the sense that it focuses one on what wages actually are. (Or what one is being renumerated for TIME)
    For example, taking the figures above, in POUNDS and applying an Hypothetical Scenario.
    40 Weddings per year, paid £1000 each.
    Turnover = £40,000
    Total Cost Of Sales = £2,000 (not much because we are selling skill, No Albums, No Prints, just Hi Res Images . . . if selling Goods . . . then add it up)
    Total Overheads = £10,000 (that’s not much because we are doing it on the smell of an oil rag and only can spend about 200 quid per week, for cost of renewing gear, ads, petrol, telephone, ball point pens, repairs, a new hard drive, a few boxes of DVDs, and a grease and oil change for the car – and subs to the Professional Association . . . etc)
    So what we have remaining is £28,000.
    Let’s say we take all of that as Wages.
    And I don’t know, nor am I commenting on the UK Tax Laws – but that brings the business to Zero Net Profit and our Income as £28,000. So that’s what we live on.
    And that’s what we use to reverse calculate what we are being PAID for our time and skill.
    i.e. Each wedding we shoot is 10 hours time. Editing is 20 hours each Wedding. Back room work is 5 hours p/w. Meeting Prospects and marketing is 5 hours p/w and we only work 40 weeks per year.
    So . . . 40 hours per week X 40 weeks = 1600hrs.
    Wages = £28,000
    Our Wages are £17.5 per hour.
    Now I know that we can play numbers and manipulate to make an outcome, but in the interest of sensible conversation I believe I have UNDERestimated the costs of running a business and UNDERestimated the amount of WORK (Time) per week, OVERestimated the number of Weddings booked and also given us 12 weeks holiday per year . . . with a view to produce a “reasonable” Wage. (I guess the median male wage is around £13 per hour?).
    What this exercise usually always shows to me is –IF this exercise is to be used THEN the reality of what to charge is often underestimated and also that appropriate (but simple) modelling, is not really understood either.
    Nor is it understood that when starting a business, if it is to be a full time single line of income business, then one has to account for Wages – and Wages are a Cost to the Business, and business costs, can only be PAID with Money.
    WW
     
  32. I think Shadforth is close. If you started factoring depreciation and other expenses you would never get going. I think he was only ballparking. And yes, there are all sorts of business expenses, but most are also a tax deduction, so that brings them down by 50%
    The costs with digital are easy to determine. By far the biggest is the initial capital outlay. But I know a very good wedding photographer who charges $2000 and he uses a D300 and a 17-55 f2.8 zoom. Thats it. $2300.
    One can lose sight of whats important. Having $20k worth of gear and a CPA to run your books does not make a good wedding photographer. Only the images do. and a good photographer can take good shots regardness of the platform and how expensive it is.
     
  33. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    . . . on the side discussion:
    Yes business expenses would be usually entered as a tax deduction.
    BUT the expenses still have to be paid for with money, before they are tax deductable: that's the point, so it doesn't bring the the COST of them down by anything - the weekly outgoings COST what they COST.

    In the simplistic expansion of the sample originally given - neither was mentioned cost of capital items nor the depreciation of them. . . which is another lot of COSTS, which also has to be paid for, with money.
    WW
     
  34. Successful photographers spend their time making work, showing it to the people they want to hire them, and concentrating on strategic activities that enhance their positioning and exposure. They don't spend their time chasing low value work, or waste energy on basic administration, or dilute their personal focus by taking on incoherent assignments. - Neil
    <p>Well put :)
     
  35. And definitley don't give the customer ALL your images. 50 is plenty, including 5 fine art quality prints.​
    At last, some common sense in terms of number of images. Makes a refreshing change from the hundreds or thousands often mentioned.
    They don't spend their time chasing low value work, or waste energy on basic administration, or dilute their personal focus by taking on incoherent assignments​
    I think you will find that away from the elite top end, most general wedding photographers do exactly that to make a living.
     
  36. Blimey, you lot are a feisty bunch when you get going! ;-) hehe
    What your all saying is really starting to sink in now and i'm starting to see things alot more clearly. It's not as simple as I first thought but the reason that I had so much confusion over the costing issue is that i'd never actually thought about it in the whole time of setting up my business and doing all those weddings for free.

    That leads me on to what someone else asked about why I want to be a wedding photographer. Well the simple reason is I love to please other people and go out of my way to do so. Even when just being asked to produce a dvd slideshow of a friends photographs for free for example. I would sit for hours trying to make it perfect even tho I wasn't being paid for it. I also have always loved photography and i've taken photos all of my life just for my own pleasure. So combining the two just makes so much sense to me. I get to do something I love and be paid for it.
    Thats why I never thought about how much i'm going to charge. I just kept thinking too much about how much I want couples to enjoy their photos and i'd give them away for free if I could just to see their faces but i've learned business doesn't work like that!
     
  37. [Successful photographers] don't spend their time chasing low value work, or waste energy on basic administration, or dilute their personal focus by taking on incoherent assignments
    I think you will find that away from the elite top end, most general wedding photographers do exactly that to make a living.​
    Have you considered that might be what prevents them from being in the 'elite top end'?
    The people doing well are those who have invested in developing a coherent vision, packaging and delivering it in highly refined and targeted channels, and developing a product or service concept that is different from everyone else's. The ones who are struggling are the me too photographers without a coherent style or market, who chase every dollar and shoot everything and anything, and spend more time with their paperwork than their camera.
    The more I read this thread, and ones like it, the more I notice there's a wide interpretation of what is meant by business. In some cases it appears to be basic shopkeeping - how to sell items, book and deliver services, manage customers and maintain accounts. But that's not business in my book. It's only the starting point - the necessary foundation on which to build everything else.
    Real business is about building brand value, occupying a defensible market and generating long term sustainable demand that leads to growth in turnover. I don't know of anyone who can achieve that unless they put the core values and assets of the business before the mechanics of delivering it.
     
  38. Craigh, the title of your post also happens to be very similar to the title of a very good book on the business...
     
  39. The people doing well are those who have invested in developing a coherent vision, packaging and delivering it in highly refined and targeted channels​
    Well; if that's not the business aspect, then I suppose my definition of conducting business differs.
    In just the quote above, that occupies the lion's share of earning my living. (Marketing)
    My definition of business: Anytime I am not producing imagery but doing something that generates profit.
    As I read all the responses, and I hope others will do the same; I see a common thread within the thread; that being business must be conducted to a far higher percentage than the actual taking of photographs.
    Again, I am not referring to those who simply want to earn a little extra money; but rather those who do this as their only source of income.
    My itinerary today:
    Lunch with 2 publishers.
    Re-writing a magazine ad.
    Billing 4 clients
    Reminding 1 client they are over due.
    Tax preparations
    Call the accountant
    Backing up my last assignment shoot
    Analyzing my last 90 days of advertising...Cost Vs. Income generated
    My camera will not see the light of day today.
     
  40. Yes, it is not as simple as what you once thought and I would suggest that it's not simple enough to get your education through a series of a few paragraphs via an online forum. The best way to learn a business is from the inside which means working, assisting, interning, or apprenticing at a successful/established studio. Spend a week there, take it all in, take notes and you'll have a notebook of information and an actual "feel" of what it's like. Turn that into a wedding season and you'll have several notebooks of information, some real experience, real relationships with professionals in your area, and you should have a pretty good plan which includes your short and long term goals. You'll also have an informed answer to about 90% of the threads here on the forum..... After you've got the experience, then you might want to help pass some of it on to some young kids entering the field, occasionally they might appreciate it.
     
  41. The costs with digital are easy to determine. By far the biggest is the initial capital outlay.​
    That's a common misconception but it's wrong. Buying the kit is cheap. The real cost to the business is the time spent using it, including post production. Every hour spent working, beyond taking pictures, is an overhead to the business unless you explicitly bill for it. Effective pricing is based on the real cost of delivering the service, not guesswork.
     
  42. The initial capital outlay is not cheap.....from the PC to the software to the flash cards to the camera bodies, peripherals, etc.... it is easily the biggest capital outlay with studio start-up. While time is money, many beginning shooters have much more time than money on their hands. However, many new shooters do fail to factor in time spent (post-processing, continuing education, marketing, networking, etc...) as part of their overhead.
    Starting up a business without any practical experience (such as internship, assisting, etc..) is mostly guesswork via "trial & error" learning.
     
  43. There are many ways to define success as a photographer and even more paths to reaching it. The key is to understand your motivations and strengths and play off them. Maybe you're a great photographer, or maybe you have a great rep, or maybe you're well connected to lots of wealthy people, or maybe women love you so much that they can't see getting married without you there. My point is, is that there is no simple formula. What pnet posters puzzled out for their own part in the profession probably won't promise you the success you seek. Only through careful and honest examination of your own values, motivations, and goals will you find what you're looking for.
     
  44. The initial capital outlay is not cheap....​
    In relative terms most gear is very cheap compared to the real costs of a small business. But, either way, those type of purchases aren't the right place to begin when starting up. There are far better ways to invest seed money.
     
  45. Just to clear some things up: true, "business" is WAY more than the simple day-to-day running of a business. It has to do with with marketing, with promoting, with projections, estimations, and about a dozen or so other things most people usually forget or waylay and which eat away at your time on a daily basis.
    Deciding how much to charge is MUCH more complicated than simply setting a target and then subtracting. Issues like financing have to be examined and evaluated, the cost of money carefully calculated (if you pay something with a credit card, even if it's invoiced to the company, it STILL carries with it a small premium which, when taken in the long run, is money too...), insurance (which nobody has mentioned), legal and accounting costs and so much more.
    True, a photographer CAN decide to hire someone to do all that (as it has been suggested), but then that would mean salaries, employment costs, national insurance, health care and so on and so forth and THAT is certainly something nobody should take on lightly...!
    When we're talking about profits, we're talking about business profits. These should always exclude the salary of the proprietor (and any other employees) AND, in that salary, items such as health insurance, pension contributions, etc should always be calculated. Therefore, coming up with a specific hourly figure is neither easy nor something that can be arrived through a forum discussion.
    If you can manage to book 40 weddings a year (and that is a high number), at $1050 per wedding, assuming NO costs whatsoever of ANY kind, you'd be making an average salary of someone working as a second photographer in a medium-sized studio. Mind you, that figure is BEFORE taxes (which would result in a final figure of around $2500 per month). Can you live with that? Is that sufficient for you? Does that cover the need for equipment upkeep? For insurance? For all those other things which will crop up?
    Chances are it doesn't, whcih means you'll have to seek additional sources of revenue, such as portraits, events coverage and so on, which means greater client variety, more sources of headaches, more administration and so on and so forth. THIS is why successful photographers end up spending more and more time on the "business" side of things, not because they think the "business" side is more important. But BECAUSE their business is their livelyhood and it needs to run properly and efficiently.
     
  46. $1050 per wedding
    The OP is talking about pounds, not dollars.
     
  47. Actually the saying is "Improvise, Adapt, and Overcome" ...
     
  48. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    The weakest or least developed element will be the limiting factor. We have discussed three main elements: Equipment; Artistry / Skill; Business.
    Give someone with a good eye, interpretive skill; photographic technical knowhow and a bit of experience; add some common sense and self confidence also add reasonable interpersonal skills and few solid connections and good marketing to a cashed up market: then a couple of EOS 550D’s a two reasonable Prosumer prime lenses will suffice . . .
    Give the greatest artist, but one with few people skills the best tools: but restrict them no marketing or sales outlet. . . and they will struggle to make money for food.
    WW
     
  49. Give the greatest artist, but one with few people skills...​
    That sounds like Picasso you're talking about. By all accounts more than a bit of a difficult b***ard.
    . . . and they will struggle to make money for food.​
    He somehow made a filthy amount of lucre.
     
  50. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    yeah . . . but him being a b***ard, was part of the draw, to his sales.
    WW
     
  51. Give the greatest artist, but one with few people skills the best tools: but restrict them no marketing or sales outlet. . . and they will struggle to make money for food.​
    Bill - interestingly, there are more than a few well-known fashion photographers who've done exactly this. Good technical skills, a demanding personality, no marketing sense and zero people skills can go a long way. Attitude and creativity can be more useful than common sense. :)
     
  52. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Yeah I know, Neil . . . but that obtuse and abrasive personality can often be an integral part of the "brand value, occupying a defensible market" . . . my point about Picasso.
    I am not sure if abrasive, zero people skill and no marketing sense works as well in Wedding Photography.
    But also, I think the most abrasive and successful Fashion Photographers have Minders, PAs and Spin Doctors . . . No? . . . that’s the same as outsourcing the invoicing to a bookkeeper.
    Merry Christmas Neil, best to you for 2011.
     
  53. Craigh--what you primarily asked is a pricing question. Which is part of marketing, which is part of running a business. Pricing also happens to be one of the hardest areas to quantify in terms of solid guidelines one can follow, step by step, to arrive at a likely price for your product. In some ways, you might as well pin a bunch of slips of paper with numbers on them and throw darts in the general direction of the slips of paper. Whichever one a dart hits will give you your price. You can always just put a price out there and see if you get any attention...
    Pricing is the most voodoo part of voodoo economics, IMHO. What to do? I would start at the beginning, which means studying the traditional elements of running a business. William W. gave you the solid foundation of pricing above in a very succinct way. This is not so that you can follow, step by step, all that the experts say, but so you can apply your creativity to your own situation and follow or break the rules as you see fit (you'd better have a good reason... :^). But I would go further back than just pricing--all the way to the beginning--product development, which is partly what, I believe, Simon and Neil are talking about.
    Based on some of the answers you've gotten, it is obvious that everyone approaches the business aspect differently. There is no reason to believe that there is one, true way. But you can't forge your own path unless you know what went before. Also remember that just because something worked or didn't work once, doesn't mean it won't work or will work now. For instance, I personally think that the studio photography business model, as practiced in the past, is a dying model. But I could be wrong, and it certainly doesn't hurt to study it, in case one can glean useful bits.
    I guess I didn't really answer your question, but I hope I've said enough for you to start learning about running a business--any business, because there is a lot to learn.
     
  54. Yea i think i am going to start from the basics as you said and read up about running a business. Talk to me about photography and I could talk all day but talk to me about business and I feel totally out of my depth. I've never been a business minded person but as i'm reading all of your posts i'm actually starting to build a picture in my mind about where i want to go from here...
    In fact I have now contacted a bridal gown shop and asked them if they would put a sample album of mine in their shop. They have agreed but I do have a slight dilemma and I will post a new topic about it to get your views. But feel free to keep this thread going if you wish. I find it very interesting
     
  55. I'm an amateur photographer at best and know nothing about shooting weddings. But having developed my own non-photography business website after reading endlessly about business web-design, a few suggestions:
    1. An intro page where you have to click to get to the main page is a bit of an annoyance. Just get me to the main page quickly. Especially since your website is in Flash, which is slower.
    2. Music is nice, but a surprise and possibly irritating to someone who is looking at your website while at work (when they're supposed to be working). Perhaps including the music with your portfolio on a separate page with a warning that it includes music prior to arriving there.
    3. Contact information on the front page. If they never make it beyond the first page, at least they have your phone number.
    As for your photos, well, I'd be very happy to take shots that nice.
    Best of luck.
    Andrew
     
  56. I am not sure if abrasive, zero people skill and no marketing sense works as well in Wedding Photography.​
    Bill, I bet you struggled to keep a straight face when you wrote that :) Merry Christmas!
     
  57. William Michael

    William Michael Moderator Staff Member

    Ha Ha
    (Aside) One "leverage" - I love that word - of internet forums, is the ability to be toneless and inflectionless when "speaking" one's thoughts . . . save for the fact that some others know one . . .
    I very much love ALL my Business & Photography Networks and part of that is my Photo.net Collegiate - many here give much more than they receive.
    I am sure, that I too, am abrasive at times.
    Merry Christmas, All.
    Bill
     
  58. As photographers, we have to realize that the majority of people we shoot for can't usually tell the difference between what a seasoned pro can shoot and an amateur. As photographers, we can see the difference in a heart beat and know that there is just no comparison, but again, most people can't tell. How many times do you see a "friend" on facebook post photos with their new camera and people ooh and aah over how AMAZING they are and how talented the person is. That is where the business side of things comes into place and separates photographers. We all know of talentless hacks that are making tons of money and those who are crazy good that are going out of business. It mostly comes down to business practices.
     

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