Build a Thriving Wedding Photography Brand & Business //
Being a photographer entails more than just taking beautiful photos on the day of the wedding, editing them and delivering the images over to the couple. So much MORE goes into it before, during and after the BIG day! One common misconception out there is that wedding photographers spend most of their time just taking amazing photos (thanks Instagram!). But in reality, the amount of time that photographers spend shooting is relatively low in comparison to how much time that goes into actually running the business.
In order to build a thriving wedding photography brand and business a lot of hard work is required. You are basically head of several departments: Marketing, Sales, Client Management, Graphic Design, Social Media, Administration, Accounting etc. Well of course, if you have the financial means, you can outsource these tasks. But in the beginning, it is likely that you need to do all, if not most of these things on your own.
MY WEDDING SEASON – THE PODCAST
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In this article, I will touch upon five broad categories that are important to pay attention to when you are first starting out as a wedding photographer.
(Note: this is not an exhaustive list!)
By the time you take on a wedding solo, it is vital that you know what you are doing. The day moves fast and so many variables are at play – so you need to be well prepared! Make sure that you have all the necessary equipment at hand and can work your camera and extra gear properly. The best way to gain experience is by assisting another photographer as a second shooter on weddings. This experience gives you valuable insight as to how weddings usually flow and what to expect. Not only will you be confronted with the technical aspects of shooting a wedding, but also the social aspects. Being a good wedding photographer also entails the ability to interact well with different types of people.
Moreover, organise your own shoots, this can be in the form of styled shoots or just sessions with friends. The more you shoot, the better you get! In addition, take part in workshops and educate yourself through online courses, YouTube videos, podcasts etc. Learning from others will benefit you tremendously. Improve your skills continuously, for example in terms of posing couples, working with different light situations, editing etc. Documenting someone’s wedding is a huge responsibility and an honor. Therefore, take it upon yourself to ensure that you have what it takes to do a good job!
It actually doesn’t matter which camera brand you use as long as it suits your needs. They all have their good points and drawbacks. At a professional level, you will need nothing less than a full-frame DSLR or mirrorless camera. And make sure it has a two slots for the memory cards – backup is necessary! And there is pretty much no reason to shoot in jpeg – raw images give you so much flexibilty in the editing process, it’s insane!
☑ Camera (+ backup camera)
☑ Lenses (ideally zoom + prime lenses)
☑ Memory cards
☑ Drone (if needed)
One of my favorite quotes about branding states that “Your brand is what others say about you when you are not in the room” by Jeff Bezos. Nonetheless, there often seems to be an emphasis on the visual aspect of branding amongst wedding photographers. As much as the aesthetic aspect of branding is fun and necessary, developing a strong brand message and
brand voice are vital components of your brand story and aid in setting yourself apart in the market.
A key point to note here is the word “developing”, because articulating a brand message does not happen overnight. There is a great deal of self-reflection, in terms of figuring out the style of photography that you want to pursue, the types of clients that you want to work with and the type of experience that you aim to provide, that goes into eloquently communicating your message with a unique brand voice.
The reality is that more and more photographers are entering the market. And with the vast amount of workshops, online courses and presets available, the learning curve to produce stunning images is starting to decrease while the level of competition is starting to increase. Integrating your unique personality in the website copy, telling a more personal story in your “about me” section along with images of yourself (even a video!) will set you apart in a saturated market and provide an opportunity for a potential client to emotionally connect with you.
Moreover, it is also a convenient method of narrowing down and attracting your right-fit client. For instance, when a potential client is looking around for a wedding photographer, they are faced with a number of talented photographers with the technical skills to deliver impressive images. Putting price-shoppers aside, they place value on having someone at their wedding that they can connect with on a personal level. For example, if they are planning on having an open-air wedding ceremony in the mountains, because they are in love with nature and are often hiking, it is quite likely that they will connect with a photographer who openly expresses that he/she enjoys spending time outdoors. By the same token, this particular photographer would
prefer photographing a wedding in the mountains in a relaxed setting over a classic, ballroom wedding.
Building a strong brand requires consistency. And the easiest way to stay consistent is to be your authentic self. At times we might be tempted to copy what other “successful” photographers are doing, but it is the wrong strategy, because it is not true to who we are and it is simply not sustainable.
Putting yourself “out there” can be intimidating, not only in the aspect of making yourself a bit vulnerable, but also in facing the inner fear that you will “turn off” some people. Remember, repelling some people is just as good as attracting others. Working with clients that value you as a person, your photography and approach is not only more creatively fulfilling, but a much more overall pleasant working experience. Simply put, as stated by Marie Forleo, host of MarieTV, “If you are talking to everybody, you are talking to nobody”.
Use your brand to express your unique personality and as a way to communicate to the right people, the right way.
Marketing your photography services is a huge part of running a successful business. In order to have a consistent stream of inquiries landing in your inbox, you need to constantly market your work. Once you have photographed a number of weddings, one of the best ways to get inquiries is through word-of-mouth. There is nothing better than happy clients who sing your praises to their family and friends.
Having a modern and professional website is key in attracting and converting potential clients into booking you. Therefore, I recommend investing in a beautiful template to showcase your work and represent your brand. And of course, these potential clients would need to find your website to start with. This can be in the form of typing in “wedding photographer in (insert location)” into Google (therefore, your Search Engine Optimisation (SEO) needs to be on point) or looking through social media (e.g. Instagram, TikTok, Pinterest). Showing up on these platforms on a consistent basis can help you skyrocket your business! Wedding fairs also work well – but you need to make sure that you seekout the right ones so that you attract your right-fit clients.
All in all, at the end of the day, it is very important to present a strong portfolio and communicate your services attractively.
And of course, pricing plays an important role (but that is a whole other big topic to be addressed in the future).
Having happy clients is not achieved simply by delivering beautiful images. Due attention needs to be given to creating a memorable client experience. And that starts from their initial interactions with you until the very last point-of-contact.
A wedding day is a very emotional and personal event. Therefore, it matters who the person behind the camera, capturing memories that will be cherished for years to come, is. Getting along with your clients on a personal level makes it an enjoyable experience for them and for you. That’s one of the reasons why I highly recommend meeting your potential clients in person BEFORE taking on a booking (when that is not possible, do a video-call) in order to makesure that you are a good match. It is also important to clarify important aspects of the wedding and style of photography beforehand to avoid any misunderstandings. Clearing up these points ahead of time reduces the chances of having unhappy clients later on.
You can consider gifting your clients with a wedding guide to help make the planning process of their wedding easier. This type of assistance from a photographer is always well received. And on the wedding day, be flexible to be there for your clients beyond just documenting their big day. Sometimes that could be in the form of helping them with their outfits or fetching them a glass of water. After the wedding, when you are ready to deliver the images, think of how you can make this also an enjoyable experience.
Don’t fall into the trap of copying what other photographers are doing – tailor it to your business.
For most people, this is the not-so-fun part of running a business. It can cause stress and be somewhat tedious and boring. But at the end of theday, it is the cornerstone of running a succesful business.
First and foremost, if you are planning to pursue wedding photography as a profession, make sure that you have done the necessary research and registered your business with the authorities. As a small business owner, there are a number of laws that you need to adhere to (this varies depending on the country you are living andworking in). For instance, you need to adhere to the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) if you are based in a European country. In addition, there could also be a number of legal notices that you need to integrate into your website. e.g. Cookie Notice.
And then you have the T-word! Yup, you guessed it – TAXES! Isn’t that fun! If you aren’t so good with numbers, be sure to hire someone to handle your books and do your accounting. That is certainly one investment you will NOT regret.
Another aspect of admin is how you handle contracts/agreements. Another worthwhile investment is to sit with a lawyer to go through these points with you.
And let’s not forget: EMAILS! Hot tip: Answer your emails quickly (especially if they are inquiries) – you will thank me later!
BONUS: DOS & DON’TS
✓ Do pursue your goal of becoming a successful wedding photographer
Don’t be discouraged by seeing how much more others that camebefore you have accomplished
✓ Do take the time to set-up your business properly
Don’t look for short-cuts to become an overnight success
✓ Do look at other people’s work for inspiration
Don’t copy or plagiarise someone else’s work
✓ Do reach out to people in the industry to network and socialise
Don’t just ask people if you can “pick their brain”
✓ Do experiment to find your own style
Don’t get frustrated when your style changes over time
✓ Do back-up all your work
Don’t be cheap when it comes to buying external harddrives
✓ Do share images you are proud of online
Don’t share images without having permission from your couples
✓ Do have fun
Don’t give up when times get hard – you can do this!
I truly wish that you got real value from this article. If you have any questions or comments, the best way to get in touch with me is to send me a DM on Instagram (@aidaglowik ). To learn more about how to build a thriving wedding photography brand and business, be sure to subscribe to My Wedding Season – The Podcast on iTunes/Spotify
Cheering you on,
Did you know that I also have a podcast for wedding photographers?
I am your host, Aida Glowik, a European intimate wedding and elopement photographer.
I provide overwhelmed wedding photographers with the inspiration, tools and resources needed to build a thriving brand and business.
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I’m Aida, a photographer & podcaster. I specialise in European intimate weddings and elopements. I provide overwhelmed wedding photographers with the inspiration, tools and resources needed to build a thriving brand and business. Click here to read more.