The 10 Most Difficult Things About Being A Wedding Photographer
If you didn't know, I have now started workshops for up-and-coming photographers, that want to start making real money from photography. If you shoot landscapes or models/portraits, then you know that making a living from it is almost impossible. Most models want to shoot TFP, portraits (family or otherwise) are a dying breed, as everyone has a [half] decent camera on their phone - It's the selfy revolution.. They can do it themselves.
But wedding photography will always be a profession where people want the best image. For the most part.
It's not an easy profession. The struggle can be very real. Here are the 10 things I think you need to know before you become a Wedding Photographer.
1. Getting Started
When you first start out, you will be hit with a bit of a conundrum;
You need experience shooting a wedding to get hire, but you can't get experience, until you get hired.
This is going to be your biggest challenge, and I was hit with this myself, so I know how difficult it can be.
One way to do this, is to "Second Shoot". Great to get experience and start a portfolio, but easier said than done. When I fist started out, I emailed every wedding photographer in my area, asking for help and to second shoot at their weddings. Of the very few emails I got back, all were negative and no-one wanted to help.
Working for FREE is another way to go. I did this for nearly a year. It gave me experience, a well-rounded portfolio, and when I started charging, I had enquiries from people who had gone to those weddings and were happy with the results.
Workshops are another way to gain experience and start a portfolio. Check out my Workshops page.
Either way, it takes a lot of hard work and perseverance to get that much needed experience under your belt.
Not only is it tough getting those jobs, but it is also a huge investment of money to get all of the gear needed to do that wedding justice
They require multiple lenses, flashes, backup gear, and more batteries and memory cards than you have seen in a lifetime. Not to mention the hard drives required to back all of the images up properly.
It takes a lot of cash to spend, before you even get the business running.
You can rent gear for those first couple of weddings, but if you're serious about being a wedding photographer, then you will need to make a serious investment.
This is a big one, so could potentially cover 2 - 5, as many aspects of the business can be really difficult.
First of all, you will need to figure out how to get it all up and running.
Then, as the business owner, you begin to realise the you are responsible for all of the working parts of your business.
You are now the:
It's all on you. Not only is it a lot of responsibility, but a lot of learning as well.
Then there's Pricing. This is one of the most challenging aspects of of being any sort of photographer.
Are you getting paid what you're worth? Are you over-charging and loosing clients? It's a scary though and one that you may well keep you up at night.
3. Huge Amounts Of Work
Once you realise how much goes in to being a Wedding Photographer (before the day, on the day and afterwards), it'll be no surprise to find out that you have a mountain to climb.
Then add on all of the business stuff, like marketing, branding, paperwork, pricing, bookkeeping, and you'll start to see that Wedding Photographers don't get much sleep.
There is a dangerous myth going around, that Wedding Photographers only have to work one day a week and get paid tons of cash.
But actually, we generally work a normal 5 day week, have meetings and engagements shoots in the evenings. And then shoot weddings on Saturdays. Probably editing on a Sunday. So - 7 day weeks...
With all this work, comes the challenge of "Balance"
Weddings can easily take over your whole life.
Finding time to be yourself,and not a wedding photographer, can be the biggest challenge.
You relationship with family and friends can suffer, since you're not usually free on a Fridays or Saturdays, during wedding season.
It can be isolating and exhausting.
Getting Burnt Out is a major risk. Without balance, it is easy to lose the passion and love for the job that is necessary to produce high quality work.
In almost all parts of the world, Weddings are seasonal.
It either becomes too cold in the winter, or too hot in the summer. So, during these times you may find yourself with less work.
You can either try to make enough in the Wedding season, to cover your losses through the rest of the year, or find ways to keep bringing in money from other jobs.
6. Making a Good Living
Straight up, no sugar coating it... It's difficult to make a good living as a Wedding Photographer!
You'll need to be a great photographer and be great at the business side of it too.
You'll need to adapt to the changing marketplace, and figure out how to stand out from the crowd.
You need to solve the issue of seasonality, and set your pricing smartly, to turn a profit.
You need to keep your costs low, while offering a world class service.
It's easy enough making money at Wedding Photography; There's always going to be someone who is wiling to pay £1,000 for the shoot and the images. But making a good living is an entirely different story.
7. Handling the responsibility
Weddings don't come with d-overs or re-shoots!
You only get one chance to get the important shots.
You will need to be technically skilled enough to be sure you can nail those critical shots, but also need to be able to handle that kind of pressure, and still think creatively.
This will get easier, the more you shoot and gain experience, but you should never lose that understanding that you're shooting a once-in-a-lifetime event.
It's a huge responsibility.
8. Mentally & Physically Exhausting Shoots
Weddings are usually at least 8 hours of shooting, commonly jump up to 12, and can get crazy at 18 hours.
That time requires pretty much continual mental and physical effort, as you are following the bride and groom around all day, documenting their experience.
Scoffing energy bars and drinks may help you to some extent. But these long hours do little for muscle comfort, and it will become the norm to go home with aching backs and shoulders.
You get to handle all of that and try to stay positive and cheery at all times.
9. Pleasing a Wide Range Of People
Your close proximity, to the bride and groom during the day, brings you into contact with all the major players and important people (bridle party, parents, planners etc). Many of these people you actually have to take photos of, so you also may have to direct them as well.
Many of them have a vested interest in how well the day goes, and how the photos (Memories) turn out. So you, as the Wedding Photographer, get to challenge of pleasing them all.
It’s definitely possible, but requires a lot of effort, understanding, flexibility and most of all, patience.
The bonus is that the better you can do this, the more likely you are to get referrals from a wide range of people, not just the bride and groom!
10. Finding Your Unique Style
We’ve already listed nine difficult things, and haven’t even really touched on actually shooting a wedding!
While it’s a very diverse event, and requires a lot of different photographic skills, what can be most challenging of all is finding your own unique style.
The wedding industry can seem to become obsessed with a different trend every year (Here's my prediction for 2018), and half the photographers and three quarters of the blogs follow suit.
Brides are influenced by all these sources, and look to get that trend for their own images.
It seems easier to just jump on board and ride the trend to success rather than pave your own way.
But trends are fickle creatures, and in another year it will be something totally different.
My prediction is that vintage gives way to ninjas. You heard it here first.
Jokes aside, basing your style on a trend is dangerous.
Once the winds change, you’re old news.
But you want your work to have a unique style, to make it cohesive and appealing to the right kind of bride.
And therein lies the challenge, because accomplishing this isn’t really something that you’re ever done with. Your style will evolve as you evolve as an artist.
The key to making it unique is to ignore what all the other shooters are doing, and pay attention to your own personal voice.
Look for inspiration anywhere other than the wedding industry.
Check out what’s happening in the graphic design world, or visit museums on a regular basis.
The more diverse you make your inputs, the more unique your style will become, the more you’ll stand out, and the easier it will be to rise above and outlast the trends!