How much do wedding photographers make?

How much do wedding photographers make?

I didn’t know wedding photography was a legitimate line of business. I didn’t even think that wedding photographers were professional photographers. This was back in 2008, when I was totally ignorant of wedding photography. Little did I know how much wedding photographers could make. I suspect you feel the same way. Well, wouldn’t you like to know?

In this article, I will try to answer the following questions:

  1. What does a wedding photographer do?
  2. Do wedding photographers make good money?
  3. How much do wedding photographers make per wedding?
  4. What expenses do wedding photographers have?
  5. I hate editing photos. What can I do?
  6. How does one become a full time wedding photographer?
  7. What equipment do I need to be a wedding photographer?
  8. Are there full time wedding photography jobs that come with a salary?
  9. How to build a wedding photography portfolio when you don’t have any wedding photography experience.
  10. How long does it take to get your first wedding photography client?
  11. BONUS: 5 pieces of software that revolutionized my wedding photography workflow

Job description: what does a wedding photographer do?

Using a digital and/or film camera, the task of a professional wedding photographer is to take photographs so that the moments that they capture may add value to their customer(s).

What are the moments that a wedding photographer will pay attention to? Usually, anything to do with the his/her client (the newlyweds). This includes any interactions that the newlyweds will share with each other and share with their friends and family. These interactions may be photographed in a photojournalistic way – that is, without any clear posing or directional input from the wedding photographer. Or these interactions may be posed – for example, group portraits.

Besides photographs of people, a wedding photographer will also photograph inanimate objects. Examples include:

  • The wedding cake.
  • The internal and external environment surrounding the ceremony location.
  • The rings.
  • The groom’s shoes (and yes, even socks).
  • The bride’s and bridesmaids’ bouquets.
  • The groomsmen’s’ matching bow ties.
  • The floral setup at the reception venue.
  • The bride’s shoes.
  • The wedding dress.
  • The bride’s veil.
  • The perfume used.
  • And the wedding transport.

On top of taking photographs, a wedding photographer is a time-keeper, a problem-solver, a crowd herder, an encouraging listener, and a BFF. But before a wedding photographer can do any of this, he/she must market themselves to attract paying customers. This includes:

  • Sharing their photography across relevant social media channels.
  • Creating and updating a website that captures booking enquiries.
  • Meeting industry colleagues to network.
  • Replying to booking enquiries via email, phone, text messages, and DMs.
  • And meeting with prospective customers, collecting sales and signed contracts.

Ultimately, a wedding photographer is an entrepreneur – you solve a customer’s problem by providing them with a unique solution of value.

After the couple have said their vows, cut the cake, and danced, a wedding photographer’s job is to ensure that all the images that they have taken are securely stored. After the exhausting but fun 12-hour wedding day, the real work begins. What does this work consist of?

  • Going through every single image to remove the duds and to select the keepers.
  • Arrange the keeper images into chronological order.
  • Edit the keepers (anywhere from 500 – 1,500 images within a 12-hour coverage day).
  • Export the images (from raw – because you shoot in raw right) into JPEG format.
  • Upload the images to an online gallery and/or copy the JPEG files across to a flash storage device.
  • Backup the final JPEG files.
  • Archive the original raw files.
  • Contact the clients to let them know that their wedding photographs are ready.
  • Ask clients for reviews/testimonials.

The most time consuming tasks for a wedding photographer have been highlighted for your convenience: namely, culling and post-processing. It is normal for a wedding photographer to spend an hour selecting keepers from a pool of a few thousand images and then another 8+ hours editing the images on top of that. I know for myself, those time estimates are rough estimates based on my own wedding photography work.

Keep these numbers (12 hours onsite, 2 hours spent traveling to the wedding and back, 1 hour culling, 8 hours editing, 3 hours on admin) in mind for a later section when I talk about profitability of running a wedding photography business.

Do wedding photographers make good money?

Yes. As a professional photographer myself, it is a resounding YES from me. I once booked 20 weddings across a 60-day period, netting me $40,000! But there is a caveat.  How much you can earn as a wedding photographer depends on how hard you are willing to work on yourself, work for your clients, and work on/in your business.

In general, wedding photographers in the United States charge between $1,500 to $4,000. Discounting a whole lot of factors such as city and region, the average wedding photographer charges $2,000 per 12-hour wedding photography package.

Most full time professional wedding photographers will be able to book 35 or more weddings per year, if not more. So if my maths is correct, based on an average booking of $2,000 per wedding, the potential income for a wedding photographer doing 35 weddings a year is $70,000 (before taxes).

This figure ($70,000) is significantly higher than the US median household income of $60,000.

I know many photographers who book 40+ weddings per calendar year. Do the math! I don’t know about you but to me anyway, I think wedding photographers (can) make good money.

How much do wedding photographers make per wedding?

The answer to this question really depends on so many variables. If we assume that the average wedding photographer charges $2,000 per 12-hour wedding photography package, then this will serve as a baseline for calculating profitability. That is, after expenses are subtracted from income, you are left with profit.

In a previous section of this blog post, I calculated that I work on average, 26 hours per wedding. This figure is broken down into the following areas:

  • 3 hours on customer communication and administration.
  • 12 hours onsite on the wedding day.
  • 2 hours on getting to the wedding and back.
  • 1 hour selecting keeping images.
  • 8 hours editing.

To be honest, these numbers are very conservative. I have deliberately chosen to exclude the following tasks:

  • Calibrating each of my Nikon D750 bodies with each individual lens using FoCal Pro (1.5 hours).
  • Charging batteries (takes a few minutes, charges overnight).
  • Checking that my each of my Nikon D750 bodies have two memory cards (takes a few seconds).
  • Formatting memory cards (takes less than 5 minutes).
  • Cleaning lenses (a few minutes each lens).
  • Giving my Nikon D750 bodies a quick sensor clean (less than a minute).
  • Ingesting the memory cards and waiting for all files to copy across safely to my desktop (1 hour).
  • Ensuring that all files have coped securely to my Drobo (done overnight).
  • Uploading JPEG files to Pixieset (10 minutes because I have a great fast internet connection).

As you can see, there is quite a bit of work involved in being a wedding photographer that I did not mention in the earlier section. As a wedding photographer, the time that you spend on these tasks are non-billable. But luckily, they don’t amount to too much time because the bulk of your time spent working is actually on the post-processing of the images.

The quicker you can turn these around, the more profitable you will be as a business. That is, the faster you can cull and edit, the more you will earn as a wedding photographer per wedding.

For example, I know from personal experience that it’ll take me at least 2 days to edit an entire set of wedding images from a 12-hour coverage day. The slower I work, the more I get distracted by YouTube and Facebook, the longer it will take me to finish the job. The longer I spend on this job, the less time I have to do other things and activities. These other things and activities could bring in potentially more work and income. But because I’m dragging my feet, I miss out on these opportunities.

But for argument’s sake, let’s assume that I’m working efficiently and that for this particular wedding, I was paid $2,000 all up for 12 hours of photography coverage.

This is how much I made per hour from this wedding: $2,000/(3+12+2+1+8) = $76.92.

And if I had halved my editing time to 4 hours, this is how much I would have earned per hour from the same wedding: $90.91.

But wait … we haven’t even discussed expenses yet.

What expenses do wedding photographers have?

Your business expenses as a wedding photographer will depend on you. Here are just a few expenses to consider before you go down the rabbit hole of being a wedding photographer:

  • Equipment
  • Insurance
  • Materials including packaging and office supplies
  • Consultation expenses
  • Software purchases and ongoing licenses
  • Internet and website expenses
  • Accountant and/or bookkeeping
  • Automobile expenses
  • Taxes
  • Marketing and advertising
  • Business fees including credit card merchant fees

To give you an idea how much it costs for me to run my wedding photography business, here is the breakdown:

  • Photography equipment (sunk cost): $15,000
  • Dropbox: $10 per month
  • One-off software purchases (e.g., JPEGmini pro, Photo Mechanic, Final Cut Pro X, Blogstomp): $1,000
  • Google suite: $5 per email account per month
  • 6×4” photo printing: $10 per wedding
  • Credit card merchant fees: 2.3% per transaction
  • Webhosting: $13 per month
  • Adobe CC subscription (Lightroom + Photoshop): $25 per month
  • Facebook advertising: $200-300 per month
  • Online wedding album proofing: $7 per new album,
  • Cloud image gallery: $8 per month
  • Associate photographer: $400 per wedding
  • Consultation expenses: $600 annually (I like champagne)
  • Packaging materials: $300 annually
  • Parking: $2,000 annually
  • Sample wedding albums: $550 every 2-3 years

How does one become a full time wedding photographer?

I feel as though this is a two-part question. First of all:

  • How do you become a wedding photographer? And secondly;
  • How do you make it a full time income earning career?

Being a wedding photographer is the easy part. You simply tell people that you are a wedding photographer.

I’m not joking. It is that simple. And when you do so, the other person will usually ask you for funny/crazy stories. Everyone has a crazy wedding story to tell.

There is no need to go to college as no formal education is required to be a wedding photographer. In all honesty, being a wedding photographer is telling others that you offer wedding photography as a professional service. This includes using the appropriate social media channels to promote your photography work and what makes you different to the competition. It involves creating a website to showcase your portfolio, provide information, and to capture email leads. It also includes making friends with industry peers so that you may help each other out.

The answer to the second part of the two-part question is significantly more complicated.

You just have to do the work, pull the long hours, take on the feedback, learn, repeat.

Show up. Do the work. Eat shit. Show up. Do the work. Eat shit. Repeat a thousand times. Show up. Do the work. Eat shit.

I was paid $300 for my first wedding. The second wasn’t a whole lot more. I jumped for joy when I finally charged over $1,000 for a wedding. Each step took time, it took lots of blogging, lots of understanding what people want and trying to replicate it in my work etc.

You too can earn $70,000 per year from being a wedding photographer. You can earn even more. How much you make per year as a wedding photographer is up to you.

What equipment do I need to be a wedding photographer?

Finally! I can talk about camera equipment! This is after all a website called ‘What Lens Should I Get’. Ironically, the equipment is the most unimportant part of being a wedding photographer.

I’m not saying that equipment isn’t important. It is! Having a f/4 lens and having a f/2.8 lens can make a huge difference in image quality. Similarly, having a camera that produces clean images at ISO6400 versus one that doesn’t can make a significant difference in image quality. However, being a successful wedding photographer has little to do with image quality.

The gear doesn’t matter in getting clients. The gear has no impact on how much you can charge per wedding. But the gear does matter in determining how easy or how hard it is for you to get the shot 100% of the time.

As a Sony photographer, I recommend this kit:

  • 2x A7 III bodies
  • 4x 64GB UHS-II memory cards
  • 4x FZ-100 batteries
  • Sony FE 24-105mm f/4 G OSS
  • Sony Sonnar T* FE 55mm f/1.8 ZA
  • Sony FE 85mm f/1.8
  • Sony FE 28mm f/2 with 21mm Ultra-Wide Conversion Lens

As a Canon photographer, I recommend this kit:

  • 2x 5D Mark III/IV bodies
  • 2x 64GB CF memory cards
  • 2x 64GB UHS-II memory cards
  • 4x LP-E6N batteries
  • Canon EF 16-35mm f/2.8L II
  • Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art
  • Canon EF 50mm f/1.2L
  • Sigma 85mm f/1.4 Art
  • Canon EF 135mm f/2L
  • 2x 600EX II RT

As a Nikon photographer, I recommend this kit:

  • 2x D750 bodies
  • 4x 64GB UHS-II memory cards
  • 4x EN-EL15 batteries
  • AF-S 24-70mm f/2.8 ED
  • Sigma 35mm f/1.4 Art
  • Sigma 85mm f/1.4 Art
  • Sigma 50mm f/1.4 Art
  • Sigma 135mm f/1.8 Art
  • 1x SB-5000, 1x SB-700

As a Fujifilm photographer, I recommend this kit:

  • 2x X-T2 bodies
  • 4x 64GB UHS-II memory cards
  • 4x NP-W126S
  • XF16mmF1.4 R WR
  • XF23mmF1.4 R
  • XF35mmF2 R WR
  • XF56mmF1.2 R
  • XF90mmF2 R LM WR
  • XF10-24mmF4 R OIS
  • 2x EF-X500

Can you tell that I am very much a prime lens photographer? By all means, substitute what ever lens combination you wish. However, from my experience, always have two professional level camera bodies with you at all times.

I hate editing photos. What can I do?

Being among the action on a wedding day is very different to sitting in front of a computer screen and making tiny adjustments to every single image. Trust me, I’ve photographed over 253 weddings and probably 100+ engagement sessions. I have edited my fair share of images.

I know quite a few wedding photographers who prefer the action versus the post processing. So if you’re in a similar camp, this section is for you.

In my earlier example, I worked out my hourly rate based on a few assumptions:

  • I spent 2 hours traveling to and back from the wedding.
  • I spent 12 hours with the couple on their wedding day.
  • I spent an hour selecting keeping images.
  • I spent a total of 3 hours on customer communications and admin.
  • I spent 8 hours photo editing.

This came to a grand total of 26 hours spent on the work, whilst getting paid $2,000.

What if I had outsourced the photo editing, thus reducing my photo editing time to ZERO?

Let’s have a look.

Income stays the same: $2,000.
Outsourcing expense: $300.
Time spent: 18 hours
Hourly rate: ($2000-300)/(3+12+2+1) = $94.44

Hang on a minute there!

You’re telling me that by paying someone else to edit the photos, and despite it costing me $300 (that I can claim as a legitimate business expense), I am earning a higher hourly wage? How is that even possible?

Yes I am saying exactly that.

Not only are you saving time (8 hours based on my example) but you are making more money per wedding.

If editing a thousand images across 2-3 days feels like putting teeth, outsource it!

Where do you find an image editor for a thousand images for $300? Try Plus Minus Collective. They work with photographers from around the world in creating beautiful edits for them and their clients. In essence, they are a digital editing service that saves you time.

Are there full-time wedding photography jobs that come with a salary?

I just jumped onto ZipRecruiter and typed in ‘Wedding Photographer’. The search results indicate that full time wedding photography jobs do exist, albeit are very rare.<m/ark> Salaries range depending on the size of the studio and where they are located within the US. New York, Los Angeles, and Denver were the top cities with wedding photography jobs.

I spent an hour pouring over each job listing on ZipRecruiter. My findings are as follows:

  • Only studios were capable of offering a full time wedding photography job. If you don’t know what a photography studio business model is, it is basically one focused on volume.
  • Experience is a must. No studio specified how many weddings you need to have photographed to meet this criterion but based on my own experience from hiring others, I need to see at least 15 full weddings to demonstrate that you can work with almost any lighting environment.
  • A minimum contractual commitment to 30 weddings per year.
  • The role overlaps into other areas of photography that the studio provides: engagement sessions, family sessions, maternity sessions.
  • BYO professional level photography equipment.

In most cases, the majority of wedding photographers seeking another wedding photographer did so on a freelancing basis where a set number of hours per wedding were specified with an agreed upon hourly rate.

How to build a wedding photography portfolio when you don’t have any wedding photography experience

Experience matters. It always has and it always will. Customers want to feel reassured that their wedding photographer will know what to do and how to make them look and feel great.

Showing experience in something you are new to is difficult but not impossible. In fact, every single wedding photographer had to start from scratch so you know that it is highly achievable.

This was how I built my wedding photography portfolio from ground zero:

  1. I took photographs every week, of people, of landscapes during sunrise/sunset, of people during sunset.
  2. I shared these images on my blog, on my personal Facebook page, on Instagram.
  3. Repeat step #1.
  4. Repeat step #2.
  5. Repeat steps #1-4.

You will notice that I didn’t photograph any weddings in the beginning.

I couldn’t.

I didn’t know anyone getting married and nobody was willing to take on a complete newbie. Instead, I demonstrated that I knew how to compose, I demonstrated that I knew how to use different lighting, I demonstrated that I was competent at editing images. And I did this by consistently going out to photograph people and things and then showing the work to who ever wanted to see.

It took me a year to build up a portfolio of non-wedding related images. At the time, I still had a regular 9-5 so photography was still a hobby. It was the perfect side-hustle.

How did I eventually get wedding photography images to show to my first wedding photography client?

I did this by second shooting for other wedding photographers and this was only possibly by the portfolio of random images that I had built.

Show up. Do the work. Eat shit. Show up. Do the work. Eat shit. Repeat a thousand times. Show up. Do the work. Eat all the shit.

How long does it take to get your first wedding photography client?

From the first time I second shot my first wedding, I booked my first wedding photography client within 3 months. A groom-to-be was looking for a wedding photographer within a Flickr group and I took the initiative to send him a private message. I showed him my portfolio, asked what he wanted, and asked what his budget was. He offered me $300 and I accepted. I was over the moon! I had just booked my first ever wedding photography client.

Now your mileage may vary depending on where you are. If you living in a small town, there may be less opportunities within a 60-mile radius. If you’re in a large metropolitan city, you will find more people looking for a wedding photographer.

With localized Facebook groups, you can go directly where potential customers are.

If my memory serves me correctly, the first wedding where I charged more than $1,000 took quite some time. Once again, I used the Internet to my advantage by contributing regularly to a particular niche forum. One day, I came across a post where one of the members were asking for recommendations for a wedding photographer. Naturally, I sent this member a DM. It took some convincing and back-and-forth, but within a few weeks of initiating contact, she had confirmed me as her wedding photographer.

If you are willing to charge less, you will find that you can book your first wedding photography client sooner than later.

BONUS: 5 pieces of software that revolutionized my wedding photography workflow

  1. JPEGmini pro
  2. Photo Mechanic
  3. Blogstomp
  4. FoCal Pro
  5. Pixellu SmartAlbums 2

JPEGmini pro compresses JPEG files to a third of its usual file size. But not just that – it does so in a way that doesn’t reduce the image quality of your image. I run all my final JPEG files through JPEGmini pro prior to uploading them to Pixieset. It not only saves me time when uploading them but also my client’s time when they download them.

Photo Mechanic makes the ingestion process and culling process a breeze.

I use Blogstomp for just one purpose – to prepare images for blogging. I use it to batch resize, create diptychs, and most importantly, rename each image for SEO purposes.

FoCal Pro ensures that my images that come out of my DSLR and lenses are perfect. Almost every single lens will require micro adjustment across time. If you don’t take the proper time and care to micro adjust each lens with each camera body, it will show in your photography (especially if you like to shoot with wide apertures).

If you offer wedding albums, SmartAlbums is the go-to software to quickly put together a design for your clients to review. Pay for the cloud proofing solution for an even more streamlined process.

Related reading

  1. 9 tips for photographing your first wedding
9 tips for photographing your first wedding

9 tips for photographing your first wedding

C ongratulations on booking your first wedding photography assignment! It’s exciting isn’t it? I remember how it felt to get my first wedding client – the pay was peanuts but the fact that a complete stranger was willing to entrust me with their big day? That felt phenomenal.

Weddings are amazing events where you as the photographer must wear many hats – portraiture, photojournalism/ (similar to street photography), people management, fashion photography, problem solving, and product photography.</mark.

Experience matters when it comes to photographing a wedding and luckily for you, I am going to share with you 9 tips to help you photograph your first wedding whilst avoiding costly and irreparable mistakes.

9 tips for photographing your first wedding

  1. Dress up rather than dress down.
  2. Know how to use your equipment (learn to use your flash!).
  3. Attend at least 2-3 weddings before you photograph your first wedding client so that you know what happens when and where.
  4. Set clear client expectations and boundaries.
  5. Back up every single file.
  6. Don’t just scout the location, scout it during the times that you will be there (e.g., midday sun, afternoon, evening) so that you may get a sense of the lighting conditions and how to best work with/around it.
  7. Prepare spare batteries, spare memory cards, spare change of clothes etc.
  8. I can’t believe this needs to be mentioned but PHOTOGRAPH IN RAW, not jpeg.
  9. Practice your small talk skills.

#1 Dress up rather than dress down: Nobody will ever tell you that you’re dressed too casual. But they’re all thinking it. In fact, my closest friends who are high end wedding planners tell me that this is the number one complaint or request from their clients. That is, they want a wedding photographer who dresses up and looks the part. Dress up rather than dress down. Jeans and sneakers – don’t do it.

 

#2 Know how to use your equipment: I am embarrassed to say that I’ve made this mistake many times. When the Fujifilm X-T1 was released, I went out and bought the entire kit: two X T-1 bodies, XF56mmF1.2 R, XF23mmF1.4 R, XF 35mmF1.4 R, XF14mmF2.8 R. I couldn’t wait to try them in the field. The problem was, I had to learn an entirely new camera system, having spent the previous few months using the Olympus OM-D series. Let’s just say there were moments at the first wedding with my Fujifilm kit where I wish I had spent the time to know my gear better.

By all means, buy all the new gear you want but don’t make my mistake. Learn to use your flash, your camera, and your lenses so that when you need to get the shot, you’re ready instead of fiddling with unfamiliar menus.

#3 Get some wedding experience in you before you photograph your first wedding: Taking images is the easy part of being a wedding photographer. Knowing where to be and knowing when a particular moment is about to happen so that you can be ready is how impactful wedding images are made. For example, what angle is best to capture the groom’s expression when the bride walks down the aisle? If you’re photographing a wedding by yourself, where is the best spot to capture both the bride’s entrance and the groom’s reaction?

If you have never photographed a wedding before, I highly recommend that you get some experience prior to taking on your first client. Click here to find out how you can get wedding photography experience before you shoot your first wedding.

#4 Set client expectations and boundaries and set them early: This is less photography-related and 100% related to how to operate a business. Most couples getting married are getting married for the first time. To them, it is a whole new world and they have nothing to refer to in terms of expectations – thus making their expectations quite often unrealistic.

 

What are some expectations and boundaries to set from the very beginning? How about (i) when you will accept calls and respond to text messages and emails – and when you will not accept phone calls (ii) when their enquiry becomes a concrete booking; and (iii) how long it will take for you to edit and deliver them with their wedding photos.

By setting clear client expectations and boundaries, you can avoid stressful situations down the road./

#5 Back up every single file: Back up. Back up. Back up! The very first thing I do when I get home from a wedding, no matter what hour it is, is transfer every single memory card across to my laptop. Sometimes, I’ll even sit there and wait for each memory card to successfully copy across before taking a shower. Once Photo Mechanic (seriously, buy this piece of software) has finished ingested all the files, I then copy the folder across to my storage unit – a Drobo 4-bay array. After I have a second copy of all the files safely on my Drobo, I will make a duplicate onto an external hard drive for an extra level of redundancy.

 

#6 Scout scout scout: Before you photograph your first wedding, I highly suggest that you go to see each location. But not just to see the location at any time but to see the location at the same time as you will be there on the wedding day. This will not only give you a lay of the land (e.g., vantage points, access points, where to park) as well as the quality of light so that you can practice in the months leading up to the wedding.

 

#7 Bring spares of everything: Batteries in colder months die quicker. Memory cards can often fail mid-shoot. Cameras can fail! Do whatever you can to reduce risk – and this includes a change of shoes, socks, shirt, pants, dress etc.

#8 Shoot in raw: If you are contemplating to photograph an entire wedding in JPEG, please watch the following videos.

 

 

 

#9 Practice your interpersonal skills every single day: I cannot stress this enough! Before taking photography as a serious professional, I was incredible shy. I hated meeting new people because I was afraid of how they would ‘see’ me. I forced myself to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. Slowly but surely, my confidence in meeting new people grew and my fear of awkward pauses in conversations lessened.

When you are a wedding photographer, you are not selling images. You are selling who you are; what you bring to the story, how your approach helps your clients look and feel great. You are selling confidence.

Common mistakes that all starting out wedding photographers make

I cared more about my camera equipment than learning how to be the best possible wedding photographer – and when I look back, I get it.

Most wedding photographers start off as photography enthusiasts – I certainly had no aspirations on being a wedding photographer!

And as all photography enthusiasts know – camera equipment is addictive.

Having the latest and greatest is a never-ending internal battle.

“Should I buy the f/2.8 or the f/4 version?”

“IS or non-IS?”

“Will I see a difference between this 85mm f/1.8 and the f/1.4 version?”

Do these questions sound familiar?

Like you, I loved my camera equipment and when I took on my first wedding photography assignment, I had all the cool gear:

  • 1x Canon 5D MK II
  • 1x Canon 1D MKIII
  • 1x Canon EF 70-200mm f/2.8L IS
  • 1x Canon EF 24-70mm f/2.8L
  • 1x Sigma 50mm f/1.4 DG HSM
  • 1x Canon EF 85mm f/1.2L
  • 2x Canon Speedlite 430EX II
  • 1x Lowepro CompuTrekker AW

PS – The only thing in this kit that is still in production is the camera bag.

This was back in 2010 so the gear list is quite old – but back in the day, I was proud to have this kit.

And that was the problem.

I was so fixated on what my gear could do that I didn’t focus on how I could use said gear to produce the best experience possible for my first wedding photography client.

In fact, it wasn’t a few years later that I realized that it was the client experience that was the number one priority – not the photos themselves!

The number one and most common mistake that beginner wedding photographers make is understanding what role they play.

Earlier I said that weddings are amazing events where you as the photographer must wear many hats – portraiture, photojournalism, people management, fashion photography, problem solving, and product photography.

I’ve highlighted the main roles.

People management.

When I photographed my first wedding, I went into it with a set of images that I wanted to achieve (selfishly, for my portfolio). I was so set on getting this images that I didn’t care about much else.

That was my big mistake.

You see, weddings are essentially expensive parties.

Parties involve people.

People behave randomly.

There is a great quote by Maya Angelou, “I’ve learnt that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”

No matter how great your photographs may be – your success as a business lies in how people remember you.

And how do people remember you?

In how you make their wedding day for them, their family and their friends, a positive experience.

Let me give you an example.

I was photographing an outdoor wedding in the late afternoon one winter. After the wedding ceremony, as the sun was quickly dipping, I had to quickly get through 15 family portrait combinations before the light completely disappeared. In between each group is usually a few minutes of confusion and people moving in and out – this, as you will discover, is completely normal.

Knowing that each family photo had to be on point, my instinct was to yell at people and get them done as quick as possible. But luckily, I had been a wedding photographer for 3 years and knew that yelling at people wasn’t going to make things any faster and more importantly, would make me look like a cranky bossy photographer. Nobody likes a cranky bossy photographer.

Instead, I waited. And while the bride and groom waited, I noticed that the bride was cold. So I offered her my jacket.

To this day, she and her entire family still remembers this – not the photos.

People remember by how you made them feel.

Never forget this.

One versus two cameras

I dropped my 5DMK3 onto concrete at the beginning of the wedding ceremony. It died on the spot.

My Nikon D3 shutter died 3-hours into my wedding day.

I left my 5D in the rain doing a time-lapse.

The mirror on my Nikon D750 locked up once and failed to do anything.

I have had cameras fail on me and I have always had a back up camera with me.

I suggest that you do the same.

One card slot versus two card slots

At the time of writing, Nikon unveiled its mirrorless cameras Z6 and Z7. The online photography community has been blasting Nikon for their obvious oversight – having only one memory card slot in each camera. Storm in a teacup?

Having two card memory slots is beneficial but ONLY if both memory card slots are set to be in redundancy mode.

Before dual memory card slots, cameras had only one card slot. Before digital photography, photographers used film.

Not a single wedding client of mine has ever cared about my equipment. They hired me for my ability to understand what they wanted and they were impressed with my vision.

By all means, use the best technology available to you. If it means stretching your budget, do so. But in all honesty, I think wedding photographers give this topic way too much attention it deserves.

How to get wedding photography experience before you shoot your first wedding

If you’re thinking of jumping head first into your first wedding without having attended a single wedding before in your life – may I try to change your mind?

Weddings are messy.

People are erratic.

Shit happens.

Even if you have a schedule, life has a way of throwing said schedule out the window.

As someone who has been a wedding photographer since 2010, every wedding I have attended as the hired professional has had something go wrong.

It is inevitable.

When shit hits the fan, it is up to your wits to keep things moving.

When the bride is having a meltdown and questioning the entire marriage, you need to know what to do.

When the groom is struggling to do his tie or fold his pocket square – you need to know what to do.

When the mother of the groom is stressing out the bride – you need to now what to do.

Sometimes, doing nothing is the best thing to do. But without being put in a similar situation before, you will be caught off-guard.

As a complete newbie to wedding photography, how do you get wedding photography experience?

Offer to assist a local wedding photographer that you genuinely respect.

Offer to help them with all the driving on the day. Offer to help help them park and mind the car on the wedding day. Offer to help to make sure that all their expensive equipment is not left behind on-location.

Offer to help them.

The biggest mistake that newbie wedding photographers make is trying to build their portfolio over the shoulder of another professional.

Don’t.

Offer to help someone by giving them value instead of a problem.

I used to get weekly emails from photographers wanting to second shoot for me. I never bothered to reply because they were thinking of themselves before my clients and I. Why should I spend my time babying someone I don’t know?

The key to getting wedding photography experience is by offering to solve another wedding photographer’s problem – even if it is a trivial one (especially if it is a trivial one!). Across time, you will build trust and before you know it, maybe you’ll even be tasked to taking some photos.

When I trained Jack, I didn’t even allow him to bring a camera for the first 3 weddings. I wanted him to see what was going instead of worrying about taking photos.

Wedding photography is more about people skills than photography. So get as much exposure to this before you photograph your first wedding.

How to get more wedding photography clients without using Facebook ads

How to get more wedding photography clients without using Facebook ads

Most wedding photographers, myself included, always want to book more wedding photography clients. There are many ways to get more wedding photography clients.

You could learn how to use the Facebook ads platform. You could learn to understand human psychology and why people buy things. You could spend hundreds of hours watching webinars produced by Facebook marketing gurus. You could invest in posting Instagram stories every single day and engaging with Instagram users. You could try many things.

You should actually try all these things.

I have.

Why?

Because being a wedding photographer is the same as being an entrepreneur.

But what about Facebook Ads?

There has never been a better platform for targeting users. Facebook knows everything about you and about your ideal customer.

For full disclosure, I use Facebook Ads as part of my overall marketing strategy. I use it because it does what it promises.

But the one problem with relying on Facebook ads is that once you stop running the ads, you lose 100% of your website traffic.

Once you stop running the Facebook ads, you lose 100% of the attention.

To get more wedding photography clients without spending any money on Facebook advertising, you will need to follow these 5 steps:

Step 1. Identify a local wedding venue that has an existing customer base that you wish to attract.

Step 2. Identify a local wedding stylist and/or wedding florist and/or wedding planner that works frequently with the local wedding venue that you identified in step #1.

Step 3. Reach out to the wedding stylist and/or wedding florist and/or wedding planner via Instagram DM, Facebook Messenger, email, or through an old fashioned phone call. Introduce yourself as a wedding photographer and tell them some recent work of theirs that you admire. Then offer them with an irresistible proposition.

Step 4.  On the day, take the most amazing of photographs. Edit them and have them ready for download within 24-hours.

Step 5. Send a copy of the images to the event manager of the wedding venue.

Step 6. Follow up with the event manager and start building a personal relationship with him/her.

Let me break down the very same process that I apply in my own wedding photography business. Are you ready to get started? Let’s go!

Step 1: Identify a local wedding venue that has an existing customer base that you wish to attract

What is the first thing that most couples do when they get engaged?

They begin looking for a venue for their wedding ceremony and wedding reception. Some couples will jump straight into looking for a wedding planner because they are time poor. However, the majority of recently engaged couples will start their wedding planning journey by looking for their dream wedding venue.

If you are new, if you have a limited portfolio, and/or if you wish to attract a different demographic of wedding photography clients, an establish wedding venue probably has a solution for you to get more wedding photography clients,

However, because you are new and because you have a limited portfolio, very few established wedding venue event managers will take a second look at your business.

Harsh? Yes. Unfair? No.

Step 2: Identify a local wedding stylist and/or wedding florist and/or wedding planner that works frequently with the local wedding venue that you identified in step #

Instead of going directly to a wedding venue, I have found that going through a wedding stylist or wedding florist or wedding planner has delivered much more positive results.

Most wedding stylists, florists and/or wedding planners do not receive photographs that are reflective of their hard work. Even if they do, it often takes weeks if not months.

This is your opportunity as an entrepreneur to solve their problem by offering your services to them.

Using Instagram, find out which stylists, florists, and/or wedding planners frequent the wedding venue that you identified in step #1.

Over the course of the next month, like their posts and comment on their posts as much as you can. This will improve your chances in the next step of the process.

Step 3: Reach out to the person you identified in step #2

“Hi <insert name>, I have loved your floral installations for quite some time. You may have noticed my fan-boy/girl-ing on all your Instagram posts of late (sorry!). In fact, the wedding that you did at <insert location> blew my mind. I know that getting high quality images of your work is often hard to come by. It either takes forever or the quality of the images do not meet the effort that you have put into transforming the space. Would you be interested in letting me photograph you behind-the-scenes so that you can have amazing images of your work to show to your fan-base?”

Not all people are going to get back to you.<m/ark> Not all people are going to want your services. Not all people will understand the value of what you are offering to them.

And that is OK.

Keep repeating step #2 and #3 until someone replies with a Y-E-S.

From here onward, your goal is to understand what the stylist, florist and/or wedding planner wants so that on the day of the wedding, you are fully prepared to execute.

Step 4:  On the day ..

Find out the best spot of parking and turn up early.

Don’t make the day about you because it isn’t about you.

Dress appropriately. It is a someone’s wedding and you are representing the stylist, florist, and/or wedding planner whilst you are on-site.

Do you job. Take your time to get it right. But do it with haste.

Find out who the event manager is. You will need this information in step #5.

I often find that it helps to show a few images on the back of my camera to the stylist, florist and/or wedding planner to get some immediate feedback. This is because the way they see their work may be very different to yours. I would rather be told that the work isn’t right early on during the shoot rather than disappoint him/her when it is too late.

Here is another pro-tip that I learnt along the way. When the official wedding photographer arrives on-site, introduce who you are and tell them why you are here and that you will not get in his/her way. Think of it as a professional courtesy as the industry is a small one.

Once you have taken all the necessary photographs, edit them. I have always found that wedding stylists, florists and/or wedding planners are so appreciative when they receive some sneak peeks within 24-hours. If possible, have all the images edited and ready for digital download (without watermarks) within 24-hours. Trust me on this point – it has worked fabulously for me.

Step 5: Send a copy of the images to the event manager of the wedding venue

In the previous step you found out the identify of the event manager at your preferred wedding venue. In this step, you are going to reach out to the event manager and send them a copy of all the images.

Many event managers are used to receiving photographs with watermarks. Just because other insecure wedding photographers feel the need to insert their watermark onto their images doesn’t mean that you should. In fact, by not having a watermark on your images, the event manager is more likely to use these images to promote their venue.

How should you contact the event manager? See the next step.

Step 6: Follow up with the event manager and start building a personal relationship with him/her

A wedding stylist recommended that I hand write a short letter to the event manager. She told me that I should introduce who I am, remind them which wedding/couple the photos relate to, and mention that they are more than welcome to use the images however they wish.

I took this advice on board immediately and it has allowed me to build real relationships with real people in charge of wedding venues that I know share the same customer avatar as my business. I suggest that you do as well.

Always give without asking for something in return.

This is an real example of what I delivered to a wedding stylist.

 

Attention is the currency of business

“The currency of business is attention.”<m/ark> – Gary Vaynerchuck.

 

In 2018/2019 – or whenever you come across this blog post – understand that marketing and advertising is essentially a game to attract attention.

All the best!