Creating a successful wedding photography business is a lot of hard work, but it doesn’t come without its rewards. Just because you can take a good picture doesn’t mean that you’re ready to start your own wedding photography business.
There are many stages involved in building a successful company. But believing in yourself and your abilities as a photographer is also essential.
Here are some things to consider when starting out. What makes your images unique? For example, do you have more of a photojournalistic style capturing candid moments, and working in all natural light? Or do you enjoy working with off camera flash in a studio setting?
Always be true to yourself; find your own creative style. Perfecting your skills in a certain style of photography you’re passionate about is the best way to build confidence in yourself. Practice on friends and family, but don’t take their word for how good your work is, as naturally they are going to be biased.
The average customer you will get as a wedding photographer is going to be more critical of your work. You might be wondering how to get exposure out in the field. You currently have no portfolio to show potential clients, and no experience dealing with new clients.
From my experience, one of the best ways to start building your portfolio is to find work as an assistant or second shooter for an already established photographer or studio. This is a great way gain confidence and first hand experience not just for producing some great images, but also customer service and learning how to direct a shoot. Even at this early stage you should always carry a backup camera.
I wouldn’t recommend taking on a friend’s wedding as the main photographer. This is way too much of a responsibility, even if you think you are well prepared. It’s their special day—not your time to practice wedding photography.
You need to also be critical of your photography. Know that you’re good, but also know where there is room for improvement. Rather than trying to compete with a million other wedding photographers out there, set yourself a personal high standard. If you’re not at the level you need to be at, find a photographer whose work that you admire. Research what makes them successful, understand the quality of work they have to offer, and know what’s involved in producing it. Forget about the rest. There are a lot of ordinary photographers out there, too. Remember you need to aim high. Research what you need to do to get to that high level. You can never spend enough time researching new photographic methods and the latest equipment on the market. Practice using your camera in manual mode and know your equipment like the back of your hand. This will give you the confidence and practical skills that you will need as a professional.
It is also of great importance to be proficient in post-processing. Spend plenty of time using Lightroom and Photoshop. Buy photography magazines. Keep reading articles. You can educate yourself, as everything you need for honing your photographic skills is online. I’ve always thought that if you do a course in photography, you are only ever going to be as good as the person that teaches you. Their technique is not necessarily the best; teaching yourself builds more confidence. You’re learning your own style not someone else’s!
After gaining some experience as a second shooter and building a portfolio, you might think you’re ready to begin your own business, but it is best to not rush into it. Try to save as much money as you can from your assisting work to go towards advertising your business. If you have enough work as a paid second shooter, you can think about advertising your business locally and online, and see what kind of response you get. If you’re assisting for a photographer who has plenty of work, I wouldn’t recommend moving onto your own business until you’re close to fully booked for a year.
When setting your prices an important factor is knowing your value. Don’t set your prices too low. People will second guess your quality. Even if you do great work, they will perceive it differently. Of course don’t charge too much either. If you are just starting out, you don’t want to lose clients because you’re too expensive! I find smack bang in the middle is a good option. That way clients won’t second guess your prices. If they like your work enough they normally have a set budget for their wedding photography, and they’ll hire you.
Establish a relationship with a local print lab. Learn about the proper conversion of files from digital to print, get some test prints done, and figure out what type of finish best displays your work. Make sure you have a logo and business email. It’s these finishing touches that make a big difference in how you present your business.
Look into wedding album suppliers, and have some ideas for when a client requests an album. Getting a sample album made up is a good option. You can take this or an iPad with you to show clients your portfolio.
When running your own wedding photography business, start locally. Pick an area and start advertising with local business linked to weddings:
- Dress makers
- Cake makers
- Limo drivers
- Wedding planners
- Wedding venues
Get some quality business cards and brochures made up to give to them. A good idea is to offer a finders fee for any referrals. Ten to 20 percent is a good amount. This will mean that they will be actively promoting you by passing on your business cards and recommending your work to new customers looking for photographers.
After registering your business, you should be promoting your own website online. A great way is doing some search engine optimization. Again, this takes a lot of time and research, but you will reap the rewards if you put the hard work in. There are great tools online that will scan your website for keywords, meta titles, and tags. This is how people find your website. If you don’t promote it online, you will not have a presence. People will never see your work. Pick only your best images to display online.
There are plenty of wedding photography business listings online that are worthwhile to sign up for. A lot are free, and some can charge $100 or more per month. Most of the time their reasoning behind charging that much money is because they get so many views per month. Check compete.com; this shows how popular their site is and then maybe you can possibly try them for a month and see if you get any leads.
A very important aspect of being a wedding photographer is your customer service skills. Always be on the ball and be very clear with your clients. Don’t wait too long to reply to their emails, and keep them up to date with what’s happening by confirming their payments and delivering contracts to them.
It’s very fulfilling when you start your business from scratch. Your images should speak for themselves when it comes to marketing yourself, but with wedding photography producing great images is 50 percent and the other 50 percent is great customer service. If they loved working with you they are going to pass on the good word to their friends and family. Do your job well, and you will find most of your work is in referrals.
About the Author
Melissa Fiene is a wedding photographer based in Sydney Australia. To view her work, please visit http://www.melissafiene.com. She produces high quality images, providing contemporary, natural style wedding photography.
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