Feature: How to Start a Wedding Photography Business in Just 24 Hours
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There are more and more “professional wedding photographers” around now than ever. I thought I would write this guide to help the next generation of professional wedding photographer get a headstart and get set-up in this adrenaline filled miss-it-and-you’ve-messed-up live fast and die young industry! With some simple advice you can become a wedding photographer… overnight!
1. Get yourself a camera (just one’s enough)
or you could: Get yourself more than one camera… and lenses… and everything. Cameras and equipment can and will break. You can’t turn around to bride on the day and say “Sorry my camera broke”. Your backup equipment should also be suitable for the job – so that cheap first camera you have in a drawer, it isn’t a backup. It is an unsuitable camera. Spend some money or find another “career”.
Some of the equipment we bring to weddings… and this is only some!
2. Advertise on Gumtree and tell your friends you have “gone professional”
or you could spend some money on advertising. You won’t regret this and will attract a much better calibre of client from the off. Shooting low quality weddings in the beginning will only create a portfolio of crap weddings and you will create a spiral for yourself where you only attract poor quality clients at poor quality venues. You also aren’t a professional photographer. You are a photographer.
3. Spend lots of money on attending Wedding Workshops, Retreats and Conferences… then use the pictures for your portfolio
or you could not lie to people by pretending that pictures set-up by someone else are your own. Taking a photograph is only part of wedding photography. Posing, understanding light, understanding where to take pictures… these are important steps that a portfolio building day won’t teach you. Before you part with cash to learn quick, think to yourself: will a pretend bride and groom act like a real one? Will they be easier to pose than a real life bride and groom? Wouldn’t you be better learning on the job from a real photographer at a real wedding? Why not ask to work as an assistant at a real wedding for free. You will get invaluable experience that can’t be gained by spending money. Also, have you noticed that everyone does workshops and trains photographers now adays? Great way to make money if you aren’t a busy pro!
4. Buy a flash (and a tweed jacket)
Yes yes yes, I own a flash and a tweed jacket. Actually I have several flashes and several tweed jackets. You can’t light everything with flash… actually you should only use flash for a small part of the day. If you are using flash for everything, then you don’t know what you are doing. Learn how to light and when external lighting is appropriate. Weddings are still formal affairs… no matter how cool or quirky you are. There are correct and incorrect ways to dress for a church service. Dress appropriately and don’t stand out. The day isn’t about you.
5. Join a Facebook wedding photography group and watch YouTube videos
or you could train with a proper photographer who will teach you real world skills. YouTube can be a great resource, but here in Ireland and the UK, weddings are very different from what our friends across the pond are doing. A lot of what is taught on YouTube and Facebook pages doesn’t apply to our small part of the world. A lot of what they teach will get you kicked out of a church very quickly… and make every photographer Public Enemy Number 1 to your local priest. Do youself a favour, learn from your local community. Become an assistant before you become a photographer. Real world experience beats virtual experience… and it will teach you some invaluable social skills that you won’t learn from Creative Live or one of the million Facebook groups flogging you something.
Who needs school when you have Facebook?
6. Post your pictures on the same Facebook groups asking for praise or reassurance
or you could ask for criticism, rather than looking for reassurance. Constructive criticism will help you grow and improve what you do. When first staring to photograph weddings, the more criticism the better! Facebook groups can be useful, but they are also mostly a very toxic environment full of trolls. Take what people say with a pinch of salt… or grow a thick skin. At the same time, remember you are learning and don’t know everything – so maybe take advice and don’t be defensive if someone more experienced than you gives you criticism.
7. Steal a local photographers price list by pretending to be a bride
or you could contact a photographer and be honest. Don’t shop your local competitors… because it isn’t nice and just darn right rude. Contact photographers slightly outside your catchment area and explain you are just starting out and are researching pricing. Most will probably ignore you, but some nice people (like me!) might actually be helpful and send you a copy of their price list. That way you aren’t also wasting the time of the photographer, who thinks you are a bride! I get loads of “brides” emailing me and then vanishing of the face of the earth. It is annoying and takes time to deal with. Time that is better spent on my real customers. Would you like someone doing it on you?
8. Base your pricing entirely on someone elses… but make sure you are cheaper!
or you could put together a business plan of your own and look at what it actually costs to run a business. You could create a price list that is realistic and would allow you to make money. If you just copy someone elses price list you are just asking for trouble. You don’t know what it costs someone else to run their business? You don’t know the type of people who book them. You don’t know anything about their business. Do you think the local BMW garage just download the local Ford garage’s price list? Of course they don’t! Don’t be a plonker.
9. Set-up a website using a free service or a template… you can do it yourself without paying someone
or set up a proper website by speaking to someone who actually knows what they are talking about. Yes you can set up a free website, but do you know anything about getting that website seen? Do you know how Google ranks sites? Do you know what size pictures should be uploaded at? Do you know how to tag images and posts? Do you know about keywords and CSS? If not, then get someone to do it for you. Paid hosting is always better than free. That is why people pay for it. If you think you can do a better job than a pro, then work away. Then again, web designers can take photos too, it’s easy isn’t it?! Heck! While you’re at it, why not download some photos other photographers’ took for inspiration and put them on your own website? They are only there to “give a guide” of how your own photos will look… sure you can always blame the “web guy”?
Free is better… right?
10. Buy a watermark and logo online… (the more the scripty the typeface the better… and more professional)
Okay, so there are many talented designers out there, both online and off. When building any brand a logo is important. But a logo isn’t just your name written in a swirly typeface (yes, I said typeface and not font). Cheap bulk buy cookie cutter logos are there for a quick fix, but if you buy one of them, your logo will look like millions of other photographers. If you want your work to be unique, why wouldn’t you want your brand? Do yourself a favour and get a quote from a designer for your brand. You might be surprised.
Love unique… Now where are my glasses… I can’t actually read that typeface… (Credit: Google)
11. Put your camera in machine gun mode and take 10000 pictures
or you could think about what you take before taking it. You don’t need 10000 pictures and your client certainly doesn’t need or appreciate it. Do you think they give two hoots about 500 pictures of the bridesmaids or shoes? Of course not. Be discearning and shoot less and think more. A really good way to get kicked out of a wedding ceremony is to take a gazillion photographs… Click click click… And are you really going to want to sift through all those pictures to find the best ones? Sure you are, you have a passion for photography…
12. You are more important than everyone!
You aren’t. A wedding photographer is there to document – to record the event. It isn’t a photo shoot. It isn’t your day. The most important thing on a wedding day, is the fact that two people are getting married. They are entering in to a legal contract to spend the rest of their lives together. The photographs, the cake, the dress… everything else takes second place. No photograph is that important where you interfere. So before you lie on the ground beside the priest near the altar for that perfect first kiss shot… Stop, think and don’t be a prat.
13. Save yourself some money… Load your pictures in to your pirated copy of Photoshop and apply every filter you have to make them look professional! (Who needs detail in shadows and hightlights anyway?!)
or you could spend money and purchase the appropriate tools. Software is as important as the camera equipment and it costs money. To be honest, it doesn’t even cost that much money. It actually costs me more to listen to Spotify a month than the use Adobe Lightroom and Photoshop! You also don’t need to spend any money on quick-fix presets. Preset companies charge a lot of money because they know fools… em I mean photographers and their money are easilly parted. Everything a preset can do, you can do yourself by learning how to use your tools properly. Avoid trends as these will go out of fashion quicker than a quick thing! Light and Airy, Dark & Moody… they are all tomorrow’s vintage: and look where that went.
14. Give your clients a USB in a wooden box (lined with hay) with your logo on it… or a heart shaped USB covered in crystals (soooo classy!)
or you could find high quality suppliers that offer products that you can make unique to you. Just because someone else does wooden boxes stuffed with rabbit fur, doesn’t mean you have to. Think about products that fit your brand. Yes they cost more money, but suck it up.
15. Do your own workshops and train people just like you!
Okay, don’t. It amazes me how many photographers, who have next to no experience in wedding photography (i.e. have been shooting them for under 12 months!) are now offering their own workshops training even more unsuspecting photographers! But you will always find idiots with too much money who have a passion…
Want to “Go Pro” even faster? No worries…
If you can’t even wait 24 hours to go pro, why not follow these extra tips to do it faster…
You don’t need to know how to pose (just call yourself documentary) or you could actually learn your craft properly. Not knowing is not an excuse.
You don’t need to do it for free (just call yourself fine art) – I love this term. It is one of 2018’s wedding photography buzz words. Photographers use it when they want to sound better than their competition. If you are going to give yourself a self-proclaimed title then understand what it means before you use it.
You don’t need to pay tax or business expenses (it’s only a hobby afterall, isn’t it? Ahem) or you could, from the off, run your business properly. If you make money you should be declaring it. HMRC take a very dim view of “Fauxtographers” who have a business just to off set the cost of kit. You want to be a pro and be respected? Then play fair.
You don’t need to spend money on backup equipment or insurance (nothing ever goes wrong, does it?!) or you could make sure you have appropriate kit and do it properly. Things go wrong all the time. If you aren’t prepared, then you are prepared to fail… and get sued.
Don’t forget to quadruple your price for your second wedding! You are a pro right! After your first wedding you know everything so can charge whatever you want. You don’t know everything and trying to mislead clients that you are more knowledgable than you are will just bite yourself in the bum when it goes wrong… and it will.
You can’t just be a photographer, you need a title! A quick guide to pick your favourite title:
- Fine art = Classical, properly posed and properly lit – not just winging it
- Natural = Posed but made to look relaxed (yes it is actually posed!)
- Vintage = Last year, too late!
- Light & Airy = Instagrammed with a filter – radioactive greens and pale pale pale skin
- Dark & Moody – Instagrammed with a filter – Think of getting married on the set of Eastenders
- Natural light – Someone who can’t shoot a wedding in the winter or who looks very confused if you hand them a light meter…
I hope you don’t find my advice patronising, but I have been shooting weddings for 11 years. I have shot hundreds and hundreds of them in that time. I have spent a long time learning my craft and my wish for the future generation is that they do to. Don’t be like the millions of other photographers out there. Be different. Learn your craft. Take amazing pictures that others don’t. Be unique and be yourself.
PS: If you are still reading this and have more money than sense… I’ll gladly relieve you of that burden and take some of it off you… for, you know… training. I will teach you to take pictures like this… but it won’t be overnight 😉
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