How to Become a Wedding Photographer

For stay-at-home moms or single moms, earning enough money to make ends meet can be a challenge. One of the best ways to take in some extra cash every month is to start some sort of side business. Your side business can start off small — as a part time job — and in time might just morph into a full time income.

One job that’s particularly suitable for mom types (especially for moms with a bit of extra time at home) is a photography job.

Now there’s many different types of photography you can pursue; one of the easiest to learn and make money with is wedding photography.

It’s completely possible to teach yourself how to be a photographer, learn how to shoot good portraits, then make the leap to wedding photography and earn a living as a wedding photographer.

The benefits of this are enormous: you work for yourself, you set your own hours (outside of doing wedding shoots), you get your own clients, and you can earn more and more money as you gain more experience and job referrals.

That’s not to say it will be easy to start working. First, you’ll need to learn how to take good wedding photos.

Here is how you become a wedding photographer. Wedding photography has many sides to it that are not present in other photography areas. This article covers many of the major areas, and ends with a note on failure. Firstly, as a new business starter, let us cover the many roles you will have to take up as a wedding photographer.

You will be doing more than taking photos

If you work for a photography company, then your only job is to take shots. If you work independently as a business, then you need to take on a multitude of roles. Here are just a few of the most important jobs you will need to do.

Client manager – Usually the happy couple, their parents or wedding planner

Each client needs special attention. They buy you before they buy your service. If you want future work from them and their friends, you need to cultivate good professional relationships.

Legal expert – This also includes insurance matters

There are many legal issues relating to photography, from what and whom you are allowed to photograph, to copyright issues and so forth. You need to be aware of them all because avoiding trouble is easier than defending against it in court.

Social media administrator – Experiment for the best results

You are going to need a Google+ account and a Facebook account if you want to attract people via social media. They will want to be able to see examples of your work on social media, and new clients will want to see positive reviews on your social media profiles.

Book keeper – At least learn double-entry bookkeeping

The IRS will come down on you like a ton of bricks because your business involves dealing in cash. If you cannot account for all your incoming and outgoing, then they will assume you are hiding something.

Budget maker and accountant – Planning is the key to your success

How much money will each project cost, and how much will you have to charge in order to make your money back with profits? How much are you spending on replacement parts, and how will you afford the new parts?

Editor – Become a Photoshop artist or lose out to photographers that are

All of your images will need editing. It is expected these days. You will need to be an expert photo editor to help bring out the beauty in each shot. Mediocre and amateur shots will simply not do.

Website creator and manager – There are YouTube videos for each website builder

It is far easier to run and manage your website these days, but you will still need to learn all the skills required to set up and run your website. Hire somebody else to do it and it will probably cost you too much.

Business manager – Poor businesspersons are often the first to fail

What direction is your business going to take in the future? What areas are you going to focus on? How can you beat your competition and take their clients? What areas are being underserved, and how can you fill that gap in the market?

Creative director – Being too original is rarely a good thing

Are your shots going to have a certain style? Are you going to aim for certain photographic niches? What do your clients want, and how are you going to tailor the creative side of your service to meet their wants?

Marketing director – Learn how to save money

You need to market your services, and it can be very difficult and expensive. The less you know about marketing, the more money it will cost you to gain new clients. Remember that each client costs you money, and the marketing director makes sure that each client costs as little as possible.

Scene setter – Take free and paid photography courses to learn this

You need to arrange the kids at parties and set up the shots at weddings. Even wildlife shots require correct positioning, lighting and timing. You have to set the scene to ensure you get the best shots possible.

Customer service – Put your customer first every time

You have to deal with complaints, questions, comments and business leads. If you are not quick to deal with customer service issues, then people will choose your competitors over you.

Being original is a mixed bag of troubles

There are two sides to this coin. The first is that you should mix it up a bit with regards to what you offer your customers. Copying your competition is often a good idea, but you still need to differentiate yourself in a real and meaningful way. People want a magical wedding experience, so they are unlikely to want to try something new. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t offer something new, such as an aerial view of the wedding from above, or one shot from above of them both laying on the grass.

Offering the same products as your competitors is okay, but you may be better off offering your own packages at your own prices. Don’t forget that the happy couple has looked at many photography websites, so it doesn’t pay to be the same as everybody else. It also doesn’t pay to offer the cheapest prices if your packages are the same as everybody else because your clients will smell a rat.

Being original is great, but on the other hand, it is similar to guys that try to be original when they try to pick up women. Most guys think they have to be super original in their approach to a woman because “Women have heard it all.” Yet, in every case, the guy comes out with the same nonsense that the last 10 guys came out with. As counterintuitive as it sounds, the more people try to be original, the more they turn out the same. Being original is fine, but it is rarely as original as you first hoped.

Also, as a side note, you do not have to playfully insult, play with, or come out with a confident line when trying to pick up women. The world’s best chat up line is “Hi.” The rest depends on you as a person, your attitude, and your people skills, not the line or technique you use, otherwise women would exclusively date the guys that have read the most dating books (and have you seen those losers with a date recently?).

Do not waste too much money on branding

You may think that free gifts, pencils with your name and number on, and printed products are a good idea–but they are not! They do not work. When people are looking for a photographer, they do not look for branded key rings or mugs. They look on the Internet or they ask their friends. Your brand is your personality, it is your shots, and to a lesser extent, it is your online reputation.

Find out what other people are doing and promote your service

There are a great many ways you can make money as a photographer. Search engines only touch the surface of the industry. Once you have picked your method, then immerse yourself in the market and in the industry. For example, if you want to photograph weddings, then join forums, join lingerie websites, relationship websites, and marriage websites. Find out what other photographers do in order to run and maintain their business. Learn how to market your photography business effectively and see if you can maximize your promotional activity without spending more money.

Filling your off-season with work

Wedding photography is so frustrating in this regard. If there is a lovely summer approaching, then you are often turning down work and referring people to other photographers, yet in winter, or during seasons of nasty weather, your work drops off so much that you end up working at Wal-Mart (telling the other shelf fillers that you are actually a successful businessperson that has fallen on hard times, while they roll their eyes and say, “Yeah, me too.”)

How do wedding photographers fill their work schedule?

Switching specialties would be one option, and there are plenty of other types of photographer, different types of markets, and different clients to sell to. However, you may want to consider a different approach, especially if your specialty is wedding photography. For example, you may wish to consider teaching other people about photography. After all, it is a massive subject with far more aspects to it than any amateur imagines. You could teach people during your off-season times. There are other options available to you if you are willing to think outside the box.

Why a wedding photographer should stay focused on wedding photography

Other photographers have plenty of ways to fill their work schedule, but wedding photographers are a little more limited. The reason is that your clients are looking for one-off experiences, and they are looking for the perfect experience. Wedding planners and couples are less likely to hire cowboy photographers for a wedding than they are for any other photography task. They are less likely to take a risk on their wedding photographer, which is why they want (nay–demand) a photographer that specializes only in wedding photography.

Read forums, and you will read comments such as, “I automatically reject any offer if the photographer also does web design” and “I am not having a kid’s party photographer do my wedding.” If you read forums, you will see warnings about hiring photographers that consider themselves a “Jack of all trades.” People want a specialist that will get the job done and get it done right. If you advertise that you can do X, Y and Z, then you will lose customers, unless the task is directly related to their wedding photos.

Referrals can become the backbone of your business

When people are referred to you, their guard is usually down. Most of your marketing process has been done by the people that referred you. They already trust you because they trust the people that referred them. In many cases, all you have to do is seal the deal. They may already know your prices, which means the tougher parts of the sale are already handled. If you can encourage referrals, then you may fill your diary months in advance by jumping from one referred client to another. With each client, you should try to pull a few more referrals in order to keep the process going.

Make sure you are fully insured

If you are a freelance photographer selling images of cars, then you may be passively sued if you screw up, or you may have to pay compensation before a company drops its case against you. The same is true if you are photographing events, fashion, celebrities, nature, scenes, staged pieces and much, much more. However, if you are photographing weddings and something goes wrong, the unhappy couple will drag you through every court in the land.

No client is more vindictive and callous than a married couple that had their wedding or wedding photos ruined by the photographer. You will need professional indemnity, public liability, product liability insurance, theft and damage insurance. You need to protect you, your business, and your equipment.

If you offer a video service, then do it cheaply

There are many people that want photos of their happy day and videos of their happy day. If you are a professional photographer, then hire an audio-visual student to work with you and video the wedding. Have the student get as much raw footage as possible, and then edit it together later to create the perfect package. If you do offer a video service, then do it for a fraction of the cost of your photography service. It is the only way you will get any business because everybody with a cellphone is able to record. If you charge a high price, people will do it themselves and you will lose the business. Make most of your profit from the photography, and treat the video service like a cheap add on.

A word on failure

You need to learn from your failures, but do not be as quick to embrace your failures as many online articles say you should. Other articles quote facts such as how Thomas Edison failed over 6000 times before he finally invented the light bulb. Nobody ever questions this fact, or suggests that Edison was a slow learner. You can learn from failure, but you should also do everything in your power to stop it before it starts.

Embracing failure is like taking a college course in giving the kiss of life to a rabbit after you have run it over. It would have been better if you had been driving slower, if you had applied the breaks, if you had swerved, or if you had walked. Learn from your failures, but do not be so quick to embrace failure. Doing everything you can to avoid failure is not the same as being afraid to fail.

To put it another way. If you are considering quitting because you keep failing, then do not work on your motivation, and do not work on your attitude so you can stick it out like a hero. Instead, work on your craft and work on not failing as often.