Do you dream of starting a wedding photography business?
The wedding photography business is a tough nut to crack: your competition is creative, relentless, and growing quickly; you work under enormous pressure; time is of the essence, and you have one opportunity to get it right. These form just the tip of a huge iceberg. Most people entering the wedding photography business as a full-time job have a passion for photography, money, and, sometimes, even weddings. What they frequently lack is a solid business acumen, which is the most important factor in succeeding. With several rare exceptions, most successful wedding photography businesses produce consistently average and interchangeable results.
There are many websites, organisations, and communities that educate photographic skills and kindle artistic flames, yet very few cater to its unique business needs. Kiss-U makes an attempt at the latter, albeit with a hefty dose of click-bait (likely because it’s a feeder site to its owners’ real business: albums). Yesterday, they published an article (“You Sure You Want to be a Wedding Photographer?”) whose apparent singular purpose is to discourage anyone with ambition from starting a wedding photography business. Conversely, perhaps the article’s discouraging tone is a tactical move whose aim is to provide those wedding photographers who persevered with approbation. Whatever the case, the article is flawed because it was ghost-written by a freelance writer. There is no evidence to suggest the author has owned a wedding photography business or worked as a wedding photographer. And that’s regrettable because it’s evident in the generic points and false assumptions of its second half.
Problematic assumptions about the wedding photography business
“Prepping for a wedding is a TON of work”
Do you have backup batteries? What about a backup camera body? Do you have the right glass? Comfortable shoes?
While preparing for a wedding may be tedious, it’s not a tonne of work, nor is it difficult or financially onerous. Any photographer with more than a couple of weddings under their belt should already know what to prepare, how to pack it, and ensure that it’s functional. I pack the same glass, bodies, batteries, attire, etc., for every wedding, and I’m efficient too.
“The wedding day is nothing but work”
You’ll sweat your face off, shoot your eyes out and lose your voice telling drunk people what to do. You’ll promise them 8 hours and work 12. They’ll provide a flat sandwich in a brown bag, but you’ll forget to eat it.
Yes, it’s hard work, and it’s frequently sweaty too (especially on those humid summer days in Toronto), but that’s pretty much it. No wedding photographer worth one’s salt is working for 150% of the agreed upon duration without charging overtime. Having a good wedding photography contract and preparing your clients for the costs helps a lot. A twelve-hour day isn’t as punishing as it may seem. I used to work in the film business where twelve-hour days were the minimum for a typical production – and we had five such days in a row. For the record, my longest single-day wedding was fourteen hours.
“Post-production is work”
You’ll re-touch far more than you should. And you’ll take 40 hours to do it, because reasons. What reasons? Well, you’re not super fast. You don’t know the keyboard shortcuts. And you’re still homing in on your look.
Post-production is a lot of work, and it naturally occupies more time than was required to photograph the wedding. However, the author’s inexperience in wedding photography is glaring. If we assume the writer was referring to consecutive hours of labour – any other interpretation is flawed – then they’re spending far too much time on a single wedding. My average pace of editing wedding photography is about 18 – 21 images per hour. I typically deliver between 150 – 250 images per wedding. Conservatively, this works out to about 8.3 – 13.8 hours of labour. But not all photos are created equal. For instance, pictures of guests will receive less attention than pictures of the couple. Headliner images, the ones that elicit wows, may need special treatment in Photoshop, which can add 2-3 hours of labour to the previous estimates. This doesn’t even tip us over the halfway point to 40 hours, and I can assure you that the photographers delivering 600 to 800 photos per wedding are spending far less time per image than I, so the quantity of produced images isn’t at issue here. Further evidence suggesting the author lacks photography experience are the subsequent statements about shortcuts, looks, etc. These are issues faced by beginners, which wedding photographers with a modicum of experience will have surpassed long ago. Every job has its learning curve, but none of these issues slow the overall progress of your career, let alone halt it. Most importantly, know your limits and don’t let your passion for the art of photography hamper the prospects of your wedding photography business, which requires self-restraint and time management.
“Photography is far more work than just photography”
Are you ready for…blatant image theft of your best work? Are you ready to lose more sleep than a new parent? Ready to sweat more than a pro wrestler and earn less money than a fryer-cook? Ready to drive more miles in a year than a Texas cabby?
Image theft is a part of photography. Whether it’s an amateur from British Columbia, who does it to pad his nascent portfolio or a professional asshole like Richard Prince. It happens whether you’re a business or a hobbyist. There is nothing particular to wedding photography that increases your odds of being screwed by image thieves, which makes it a moot point. Conversely, while sweating is part of the job because most weddings take place during warm weather, I’d be remiss for not pointing out that wedding photographers are paid more than fryer-cooks, quite handsomely, in fact. At least, those that know the difference between short-term gains (charging a pittance per wedding) versus long-term goals (establishing a viable price structure from the start). In such situations, thinking like a wedding photography business person instead of wedding photography artist helps. The former realise that when work requires excessive amounts of travel, you have to charge your clients for the privilege instead of sacrificing your time, vehicle, and private cash reserves in the name of art.
None of the misconceptions above is a true long-term problem for a wedding photography business. They are generic stereotypes gleaned from the various corners of the internet as appropriated by a writer with no apparent experience in the field or the wedding photography business specifically. If an honest attempt at a career as a wedding photographer and small business owner is for you, give it a shot and don’t let click-bait content marketing get you down!