Note: I very much write my blog for my wedding couples but I know that of my 6000 blog readers/month a fair few are fellow photographers :) Today's post is written with those photographers in mind so if your wedding is coming up soon then feel free to skip this! We'll be back to engagement and wedding pictures next time :)
If you click on the "about me" page of many photographers, you'll see a bunch of amazing stories that talk about inheriting an antique camera from their great-great grandfather when they were 4 years old and just knowing they were destined to be a photographer.
Umm...not so much for me. One day Paul came home with a new DSLR camera to distract me from the HUGE flatscreen tv he'd just bought and it all happened from there.
Amateur hobby photography rapidly progressed to newborn and family photography along with corporate events and headshots. I was always adamant that I would never photograph a wedding. I couldn't think of anything worse - working on a Saturday night? having to deal with bridezillas? those traditional boring family pictures? No thank you!
And then my camera-gifting boyfriend asked me to marry him and became my husband. We got married in Las Vegas and when we got our wedding photographs back I was blown away. I had no idea that wedding pictures could look like this:
Photo credit: Wynn Las Vegas
Fast forward a month and we had a black tie wedding reception back in New England. We (well, my parents!) spent a lot of money on a very good photographer for the evening and when the pictures came back I was pleased, they were fine, technically good but compared to the Las Vegas images the moments and emotions captured were somehow less.
I was so intrigued! If I photographed a wedding would I be able to take the kind of pictures that would take someone's breath away? Or would they be kind of ho-hum? Don't worry, I didn't want to try this experiment out on an unsuspecting couple so for about 3 months I second shot with a bunch of different photographers. I fell in love with everything about wedding photography. The anticipation, the excitement, the indescribable joy of the couple and their families on this huge day - being able to document this with pictures felt like a dream.
And so I booked my first wedding alone. The nerves! The pressure!! The frantic reading and online learning. Setting up lighting in my kitchen with the lights turned off to simulate a wedding reception! Not to mention spending a fortune on back up equipment. Of course there are a million things I would do differently now but I'm still very fond of the images from that day:
Although it reminds me that I really need to update my blog header images as there have been a gazillion other weddings since then!
My wedding photography business took off. Over the last five years I've worked incredibly hard, invested more money than you can probably imagine on equipment, education and business expenses and have had the honor of working with the most amazing couples, their friends and families. I've been lucky enough to have my work published in magazines, featured on popular wedding blogs and have even won photography awards. My 2012 is booked up and 2013 is about 25% booked already. Sometimes I have to pinch myself and wonder if I can even call this a job when it's so much fun!
Although photography was new to me (and believe me, I estimate I've spent close to $40,000 over the years on photography education and I'm continually trying to improve my craft), basic business skills weren't. I'd worked in the corporate world for years - everything from new product development to international business to sales and marketing - and so many of the lessons I learned during that time were invaluable.
Not everyone is as lucky. Just this morning I drove past two photography studios, one in Danvers, MA and another in Andover, MA that have closed down. The US Small Business Administration claims that 50% of small businesses fail within the first 5 years and the number one reason is lack of experience. Just because you like cooking doesn't mean you should open a restaurant. Just because you have a camera doesn't mean you should start a photography business. You can take the best photographs in the world but if you don't know where to start with sales and marketing to find couples and book weddings along with how to price your products and services so that you're making money then you might run into problems:
I get 2-3 emails every month that go something like this
I love your work! I just got a new camera. Attached are some pictures I took of my dog/cat/child. I'd love to photograph a wedding. Can you tell me which lens you shoot weddings with? Also, where should I advertise to book weddings?
and I don't really know where to start with my reply! I'm probably only taking pictures maybe 10% of the time, the rest of time is spent on client communication, email, meetings, post-processing, album design, social media, networking, professional education and standing in line in the post office :)
I'll start right here though suggesting you check out Inspire Photo Seminars. Inspire is a retreat-style conference for professional wedding and portrait photographers. The conference is comprised of sessions on a variety of subjects, from business practices to shooting techniques, led by local professional photographers. The next conference is March 26-28, 2012 in Sturbridge, Massachusetts:
The theme for this year is "Turning Personal Creativity into Financial Profitability" which is something that many creative people struggle with. I often hear "but I don't want to sell to my clients" or "I'm not even making any money on this wedding but they're such a sweet couple" but unless you make a profit your business won't make it and your clients will be sad :(
The main reason I'm posting this excessively long post is that I am honored to be presenting at Inspire :) My talk (9:30-10:45am on Tuesday March 27th in Theatre One) will be about the lessons I learned in the corporate world have enabled me to run a profitable wedding photography business. I'd love to see you there (I am already having nightmares of just 3 people showing up to watch my talk and I'll be like one of those people in the mall selling weird handcream that no one wants to talk to). There are some really great speakers - I'm personally very excited to see Kristin Korpos on rocking sales tax, Ned Jackson on the art of the wedding portrait and Paul McNerney on Digital Asset Management - you can see more course descriptions **here**
Check out my grown-up headshot courtesy of my photography bff Kate McElwee :)
And the best part! You can use this code 2012HAYDOCK to get $50 off your registration. I think it's valid for up to 4 uses. If you're thinking of starting a photography business or you're in your first year or two of business then this is the perfect retreat to attend. There's everything from basic business to off-camera flash techniques covered. Attendance is capped at 200 and it's mostly New England photographers that attend so awesome for networking and making new photography friends. There are also intimate round table discussions and mentoring sessions so that everyone leaves with tangible actions to improve their business going forward. So what are you waiting for? Click **here** to read lots more about Inspire and click **here** to purchase your registration.