It takes a special person to carve a successful career in photography. You need to be artistic, good with people, and have a good business sense. If you keep your company small you need to be able to turn your hand to everything in regards to running a business and being a photographer. To become a wedding photographer you also need to enjoy working under pressure; as a wedding generally costs a lot of money, you will be expected to produce stunning work, people will be running round (often stressed) trying to organise everyone, putting you under time pressure- whilst others will be heading for the bar as fast as possible, making it very difficult to get everyone to participate in the group shot! Unfortunately this is often seen as your fault if you don’t get the shots that the Bride and Groom wanted, even worse if you actually don’t get ‘Uncle Phil’ in any shot as he couldn’t be prized away from the said bar!
However, the prospect of an exciting and lucrative career still calls. So where do you start from here?
Step One – Training.
This should, without doubt be your first port of call when even considering a career in Wedding Photography. The initial investment in a good Wedding Photography Course will pay for itself a thousand times over by giving you the tools to succeed and most importantly to point out the common (often costly) pitfalls to avoid. A good course will spend time shooting on location, so you can start to learn how to see a good shot and learn how to work with tricky lighting conditions, you should also spend time on the business side of being a wedding photographer, covering the set up, sales and marketing, album design etc… Finally you also want instruction in cataloguing and keywording all them images you are going to have, in RAW file workflow and post production of images. This will give you a thorough grounding in all matters relating to your Wedding Photography Business.
Step Two – Business Planning and Setting Up
Once your training is completed you will then have a very clear idea in mind of the target market you are aiming for. With this knowledge you will now be able to make a start on your business plan. A business plan is the most important thing you can do when setting up a business and I recommend doing one at least each year during the lifetime of the business. I really cannot stress the importance of a good, thorough and well thought out business plan; not only will it further strengthen in your mind what you want your business to be, it will also identify any potential problems early on and enable you to act upon your findings.
You will then need to sort out your company formation (sole trader, LLP or LTD) and also your trading name, then set up your bank accounts, insurances, business stationery, your contracts of engagement / terms and conditions etc… There is a lot that goes into the actual set up, but take your time and do it properly and it will save you the time in trying to do all or some of it later on, when you are busy with Weddings.
Step Three – Equipment Acquisition
It is now I would suggest any equipment acquisition you had in mind to be done. The reason I would suggest waiting until this point is thus; for one, you will have completed your training course and had plenty of chance to ask your tutor what equipment they would suggest you need based on your aspirations and budget and for two, you will now have a much clearer idea of the budget you have available now after you have completed your business plan. If your budget has altered dramatically and now you feel unsure what equipment you should buy now with the new budget in mind, go back to your tutor and ask. A good training company will offer advice after the course event, so make the most of it! If at this point you really don’t need the equipment, I suggest you wait until you have got bookings coming in and buy the equipment from your profits. It is best not to spend too much money if you don’t have to in the early days.
Step Four – Building Up Your Portfolio of Images
I am frequently asked “Can I use the images taken on courses for my portfolio, website and for advertising?” I always advise against this. You need your own images to advertise your own business otherwise you could run yourself into trouble with trading standards by using images created on courses. A much better way is to offer your services to a more established photographer as their assistant for the day. You maybe able to get your camera out and take some shots yourself- however even if you don’t it will be a great insight to the real workings of wedding photography and it will increase your confidence even more. You may have to travel a bit, as a photographer local to you most likely will not let you through their door; as after all you intend to operate in the same area, you are a potential threat to their business. So be prepared to travel for the experience. Another good way and guaranteed to get you images you need is to go back to your training company, as many offer ‘Portfolio Building Days’. Here they will book locations and models for you and make available to you lighting equipment should you need it. You then get to create the shots you need, without them being set up by someone else. It is a more costly option, but can help you to get established in the early days until you can replace these images with your own on the job shots.
Step Five – Your Website
Great care must be taken over your website design as this is undoubtedly your biggest selling tool. You don’t want it to look too homemade and above all it needs to have lots of beautiful images on it. It amazes me when I see photographers’ websites with very few pictures, as after all it is the stunning array of pictures that will ultimately get you the booking! You need to make your website easy to navigate, with your contact details or a email form so that potential clients find it easy to get in touch with you. You also need to tell people why they should book you on your website; if you cannot find a single reason, how are your potential clients going to? You should have identified your unique selling points during the creation of your business plan which will help you to write a stunning sales pitch and convince potential clients why they should book you and your services.
Step Six – Advertising Your Services
You will have identified where your competitors are advertising whilst you were doing your research for your business plan. There are so many advertising mediums today that it can be a minefield knowing where to advertise and getting it wrong can be very costly. As ever the good old local Bridal Fayre is a captive audience, so is often worthwhile attending. You will need a brochure or a flyer at least so that people visiting your stand have something to take away and remember you by. Don’t forget the importance of creating a mailing list- often a timely reminder can secure you that booking. Also get your business onto the social networks, such as a Facebook page and Google places. Try and get on as many online directories as time allows. There after your campaign needs to be built around your target clientele, as to whether you advertise locally, nationally or in newspapers or the glossy magazines, whether you leave flyers with local businesses or details with hotel venues. This is where your early research will pay dividends.
Then it is a case of continuing to work hard until your efforts starts to reap in the rewards with numerous bookings and a good and healthy profit. Good luck and enjoy the ride!