Wedding Photography – How to Market Yourself Successfully As a Wedding Photographer

Oh boy, there are a lot of wedding photographers out there aren’t there? Or at least, there are a lot of photographers out there that claim to be good right? I have seen some really terrible shots, and hideous wedding photos, from people who are charging premium prices for their work.

There are many really talented photographers out there, who are not getting the work. So why is this? It can be put down to one simple fact.

Marketing

Let us ponder this point for a moment: If you do not know how to market yourself, then you may be the most talented photographer in the world, but you will remain a very talented, and unemployed photographer. Here are some key points to help you on your way to success as a wedding photographer.

Get Good Quality Printed Material

Nothing says, “I’m awesome” like some really great, good quality printed marketing material. The fact that you are able to produce such good quality material, inspires confidence and trust in your potential customers. Get the best that you can afford. You do not need 1000 brochures, or business postcards etc Quality rather than quantity is paramount if you are to court the right kind of clientele.

Some suggested items include: High gloss promotional postcards, business cards of at least 300gsm (gsm indicates the weight of the paper), glossy tri-fold brochures.

Be Clever with Where You Target your Printed Material

The most obvious place to leave a business card (along with 1000 other budding photographers) are bridal emporiums.

This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t leave a business card there, but try at least to build a rapport with the staff when you visit, so that you are more memorable than the other 999 photographers who walked in before you.

Feel free to offer them an incentive if the client books you as a result of getting your card/flyer/brochure/post card from them. A simple gift certificate will often suffice. If you do not feel comfortable doing this, then at least reward them if you receive a booking from them anyway – flowers and a box of chocolates are always appreciated, and you can be sure that you will be recommended again.

You can even offer to photograph some of their merchandise, and offer to reciprocate the referral to any brides who approach you, who may not have heard of their particular bridal shop.

If a bride is referred to you by a particular bridal shop, then it is an absolutely wonderful idea to take the bridal shop some of the photographs (displaying their merchandise on the bride) after the wedding. They will be so appreciative to see the end result and it will give them something concrete to show future customers proof of your photographic skill!

Other suggested places to take marketing material include: Premier Wedding Venues, Fabric shops (who specialise in wedding/evening dress fabrics), hair salons (hair stylists are chatty by nature, and if you can get them to talk about you – even better!), wedding planners, event planners etc.

Advertise in Local Business Directories

Sometimes simple is best! Often a local yellow pages (sometimes called white pages in some parts of the world), will have a special ‘pink’ bridal section.

For most brides, they may not know where to start looking for wedding vendors, and the yellow pages is an often overlooked advertising medium for photographers (our local yellow pages does not have one single listing for a childrens portrait photographer) which could be a potential gold mine if you place the right advertisement at the right time.

Remember that yellow pages get delivered free of charge to all homes and businesses with a listed telephone number – hello!

Join a Local Business Network

Local business networks operate in most major cities, and often have suburban chapters. In many cases they will only permit one person of each profession to join (e.g. one real estate agent, one lawyer, one optometrist, one graphic designer etc), so try to find one that either doesn’t have wedding photographer, or photographer at all, or is a new chapter and looking to increase its membership.

They usually meet once a week at a local coffee shop or restaurant, over breakfast, and the meeting allows members to speak about their businesses for 3-5 minutes each (depending on how large the membership is) and then to exchange referrals. e.g. the graphic designer is working on a the invitations for a wedding, and has promoted your services to the bridal couple, and they then pass on the contact details of the bridal couple for you to contact, and showcase your work to.

Be More Versatile in Your Work

Most photographers do not just shoot weddings. When I started out it was in the Sports Action genre, particularly Equestrian photography, and my very first wedding client, was one of the riders who had always liked and purchased the sports photographs that I had taken of her, and asked me if I would shoot her wedding.

It was the perfect opportunity to cut my teeth in a new direction, a small family wedding at home, and it was a huge boost to my confidence when the photos were so well received.

Remember wedding clients can be found anywhere, even in the current economic climate, people are still getting married, and still have wedding budgets so there is no reason not to go out marketing with all guns blazing as normal.

Network with Other Photographers

Believe it or not, other photographers can be your greatest source of work. Have you ever wondered what would happen, if you booked a wedding client, and then the day before the wedding you were suddenly involved in a car accident? What if you were unable to show up and shoot the wedding? Can you imagine the brides dismay when they’ve probably paid you a hefty deposit, and you suddenly can’t produce?

That’s why it’s best to have back up at every wedding you shoot. Offer another photographer a chance to shoot alongside you, or act as runner, or equipment set up person. Chances are they will do the same for you. If you are suddenly hurt, or unable to shoot for whatever reason, then they can cover the wedding for you.

Just make sure you have clear rules and boundaries regarding who shoots what, who edits, and who gets paid what before you even begin. Most photographers will have a network of photographers with whom they work well together, and it makes it very easy, and smooth if something should happen to go wrong.

It’s a good selling point to your potential clients if you are able to reassure them that even if something happens to you, that they have nothing to worry about, and someone will be there to shoot their wedding.

Lastly, Bridal Magazines

While this may seem the obvious choice, advertising in high end magazines is a very expensive though fruitful option. The exposure is good, the readership is huge, and it will in all likelihood yield a great number of bookings for you.

However, it is probably an avenue best left to the wedding photographer who has already made an impact on the local industry, and is just looking to keep exposure and name to a maximum, and perhaps to begin to take bookings on a national or international level.

The best of luck to you with your wedding photography marketing efforts.

How to Choose a Wedding Photographer – 10 Tips For Selecting Wedding Photography

You want your wedding photographer to capture everything that makes your day special, to capture you at your best, to deliver photographs that live up to your expectations. Here are 10 tips for selecting wedding photography that you can live with throughout your new life together.

  1. A reputable wedding photographer should have a physical location. A physical location where you can find them when you need them and where you can meet with them safely is important. Brick and mortar wedding photography studios build trust within the community and with their clients. If your wedding photographer does not have a local address (not a PO Box) that they will share with you, it’s a good reason not to trust them. They might work out of their house, but do you know where that is? A physical office or studio is paramount to them being trustworthy. Would be you be willing to have a random stranger come to your house, or for you to go to their house? It’s safer and more reliable to choose a wedding photographer with a studio or office you can visit and where you can find your photographer.
  2. A good wedding photographer should help make your day go more smoothly. Aside from a dedicated wedding planner, your photographer is the only vendor who is going to be spending the entire day with you. A good wedding photographer should make things easier for you. They should solve problems. Your wedding photographer should be flexible. They should be able to adapt and thrive in difficult situations. Find out more about their abilities and ask about a difficult lighting scenario, bad weather, or other catastrophe and find out how they dealt with it in the past.
  3. You need your wedding photographer to be focused on you. When you meet with any wedding photographer for the first time, do they ask about you, get to know you, and find out what you want? Or do only they talk about themselves and what they do? Find a photographer who is willing to spend time getting to know you so you know they understand you and your needs. This is the best way to find out if they are a good fit for you.
  4. Your wedding photographer should be knowledgeable and helpful. They should offer suggestions about options you have for different things, provide advice on scheduling and setup, be full of ideas, and be ready to make your day and your planning easier. A good photographer is big on planning. Your photographer should work with you before an engagement session to select clothing and location. Your wedding day photography should be scheduled as part of your day rather than as an afterthought. Photography does not have to be inconvenient – it can be a fun and integral part of your day.
  5. It might sound strange, but not all wedding photographers are the same and not all photographers are a good fit for every client. If your wedding photographer meets you and finds out about what you are looking for and then tells you that they don’t think they would be a good fit for you, it might be surprising, but it’s nothing personal. Wouldn’t you rather a professional be honest about this than trying to change to meet your needs? Sometimes photographers realize that what they specialize in is not the same thing a client wants. Photographers don’t want to make you unhappy, and if a wedding photographer thinks you might be happier with a different style of photography or with a different situation, we will tell you before you book so you are not disappointed later.
  6. Price is NOT the most important factor when choosing a wedding photographer: You definitely get what you pay for. Photography is like anything else in life: You get what you pay for. It is not logical to think you can hire someone for little to no money and get the same results you would get if you had spent twice what you paid. Price is normally a factor when it comes to quality. Photographers who charge more are usually backed by their reputation, their brand, and their experience. You should also understand that your photographs will become the lasting memory of your wedding day. There are two things you should spend money on for your wedding, it should be your venue and your photography. People will probably not remember the food, you will only wear your dress once, and most of the other things are not huge investments anyway (flowers, music, makeup). You will look at your wedding photographs regularly – perhaps even every day – for the rest of your life. Shouldn’t your wedding photos be great?
  7. Your wedding photography studio should be insured and licensed as a legal business. Many venues actually require insurance from vendors working there. Camera equipment is expensive and you should make sure your photographer is fully insured by a reputable insurance company to make sure you are protected. Many photographers are just individuals with cameras and maybe a slick website. Make sure your photographer is backed by a legal, legitimate business.
  8. Your wedding photographer should have backup equipment and a backup plan. Mandatory: Cameras with two slots for memory cards that can be written to simultaneously in case one card fails, backup cameras and lenses, a data backup plan including offsite backups, and a disaster plan. Protect your investment. If your photographer only has one camera, it’s not enough.
  9. Multiple photographers with your package are much better for you than having just one. Your wedding photographer should have multiple photographers on staff in case someone get sick or God forbid injured. A lone photographer cannot be in enough places at once to possibly cover a wedding day adequately. For all but the smallest weddings, your wedding photographer should have at a minimum a photographer and assistant/second shooter. Anything less and you will be missing out on important moments, angles, and opportunities.
  10. Your wedding photographer should NOT dump a disc of photos on you and disappear after the wedding day. Some photographers will sell you a disc of high resolution photos, give them to you, and that’s it. Your wedding photographer should provide value-add services and products after your wedding day – for example, photo books or albums, photo prints, and wall art. Other services you should look for are in-studio viewings and selection, retouching and editing services, and gift options. A photographer that shoots photos for a disc is going to give you a result that is a completely different set of photos than a photographer who is shooting with an album in mind or to create artwork. You are going to get a much better selection of photos from a photographer focused on artwork and an heirloom album than one who is going to shoot-andburn a disc for you and call it a day. Will you really want to spend time and money designing your own album? Probably not. Make sure your photographer provides you with personal usage rights for the images, but you do not need raw files or ultra high resolution photos if your wedding photographer designs for you an amazing photo album, gives you a disc of JPG digital negatives, and offers print, artwork, and design options after the wedding. Consider what you really need and talk to your photographer about what they provide.

If you choose a wedding photographer who you get along with, whose portfolio or example photographs you enjoy, who offers products you want, and whom you feel you can trust, your wedding photography experience should be a positive one.

Photography is one of the most important decisions you will make for your wedding, and you owe it to yourself and your future legacy to invest in selecting a good wedding photographer instead of just the cheapest photographer you can find.

Starting a Wedding Photography Business

Creating a successful wedding photography business can be more of a challenge than one would think. Just because you can take a picture doesn’t mean that starting your own wedding photography business will be smooth sailing. However there are certain building blocks one can take that will assist in creating yourself a successful start to your wedding photography business. First and most important building block is to build an efficient and thorough business/creative plan. This is the foundation and should include your objectives, your mission, and your keys to success.

Your foundation objectives will cover what it takes to produce the same outstanding quality results time after time, and what it will take to become recognized as a top wedding photographer. You mission should describe what you want to achieve and how you are going to do that. Your keys to success should include how you will fulfill your client’s expectations and how you will accomplish this. How will you be competitive with your services offered? What kind of profits do you need to become successful competition?

Before you start you’re first step is to find your identity. Have you figured it out? Be true to yourself and know your strengths and weaknesses as a photographer. Are you ready to start this financially and technically? Do you know your style and identity, and do you do it well? You should know how to describe your photography and vision. Are you more of a photo journalistic photographer who relies on natural available light and candid moments? Do you pre-plan and pose portraits and incorporate technical lighting skills giving a classic look. Or, do you mix it up with both, showing a full range of capabilities that give you your own modern contemporary style?

If you know what you want your photography and identity to look like but haven’t achieved the look yet, maybe you need more work on your photography before you can establish your business.

Take a look at your photography and decide what level of talent you have and what potential you possess. Be critical of your work, but also have others critique your work for you. Learn how to use constructive criticism to improve your photography. If your identity isn’t where you want it, ask yourself, what needs to be improved? Do you know your equipment (camera, lighting, etc) well enough? Do you know how to read and meter your exposures? Do you have the right equipment, i.e.: hi resolution digital camera and Photoshop? You need a digital camera to stay up with your competition. It is also of great importance to be proficient in Photoshop and Lightroom and your digital workflow. It is up to you to overcome any weakness with proper education and practice before you take on photographing a wedding.

Photographing a wedding is a big responsibility. Someone has paid a large amount of money and trust in you to document this special and personal day. This is why it is so important to be confident enough to step into any wedding that comes your way and do a solid job photographing it. Having your skills fine-tuned are just part of what it takes to build that foundation of confidence. The other huge part to building confidence is experience.

We all start out somewhere. So once you have your photography skills and workflow down, it is now time to test yourself and your identity. The first step is to know your value. Do you think you’re up to shooting a wedding solo for $2000.00? Wait, you don’t have any wedding pictures for a portfolio. How are you going to sell yourself as a wedding photographer? Well either you get lucky with someone who trusts and likes your photography regardless that you have never photographed a wedding. Or you decide to build your portfolio through being a second or third shooter for a more established wedding photographer. This is a great way to get exposure and experience in the wedding photography scene. A great way to approach this route is to call all of the local wedding photographers in your area and ask if anyone is in need of a second or third shooter. Once you find some work ask questions and pay close attention to how they run their business and how they photograph weddings. Everyone has a system. How they shoot the wedding ceremony, portraits, reception, etc. Use this position to your advantage and build relationships within the wedding industry. The more you learn, the faster you will be on your way to becoming competition. Remember to save money for when you make your transition out on your own.

Once you have some weddings under your belt your confidence will lead you at the right time to separate and become that competition that you have been working for. When you do choose, it should be all or nothing. Either stay on as a second shooter or take the risk and become competition.

After you have taken the jump into the unknown and exciting world of being your own boss. Your confidence as a photographer has grown and you now possess an identity as a wedding photographer. You can now start your wedding photography business wherever and whenever.

Hopefully you have invested in your own digital camera, backup camera, lenses, computer, Photoshop, etc. Your investment needs to have insurance. You cannot afford to have it stolen or broken; otherwise all your hard work will be for nothing. Also you should have liability insurance to C.Y.A. You can get photographers insurance through PPA.

Before you place yourself as competition in the wedding photography market you should know your competition. They are your best models to help get started. Take notice of what they charge for packages and what they include with their services. Where and how do they advertise? What niche do they fill and where can you fit in as a new business.

To establish your business you need an address. You can choose a PO Box or another mailbox service such as Mail Boxes ETC. I prefer MBE because you can choose a mailbox with a real street address. Not to mention they have many other services. Next get a separate phone number for your business. To legitimately create your business you should either have a Limited Liability Company (LLC) or a sole proprietorship. You can learn about this through an accountant or through websites like legalzoom.

With the rest of the money you saved you will have to determine how much is to be used for marketing and other expenses. Marketing is going to be the most essential thing for your business to get off the ground. Without marketing you don’t have a business. Your marketing essentials are: to have your identity, your portfolio, and your line of communication.

Through the image library that you have created, pick your best images to use for your portfolio, website and all promotional and marketing materials. Your portfolio can be made w/ inkjet prints that you put in an album of choice such as albums provided by Topflight, photoalbumshop, or you can choose to have one printed by Asuka albums, or other online print labs such as Snapfish or Shutterfly. Your image identity is now established, and will grow over time. However you now need your business identity. What will your promotional materials look like? What font will you use? What colors will be incorporated? Will you use a logo? It may be a good idea to find a graphic designer to help you out with this. Once you figure out your business identity and incorporate it with your promotional materials you should create and print them all at once to distribute them all year. Make sure you have the basics like your business cards, postcards, brochure, contract, 8×10’s and any other promotional materials you can think of. These materials can be ordered through gotprint.com and vistaprint.com.

After your promotional materials are finished and the portfolio is printed, you are ready to create your website. View other sites to get an idea of what style of site you want and how it will look. Search for someone else to create a website for you if you aren’t educated in web development but having a professional do this can get a bit pricey. Some great alternatives are to use Craigslist or look into finding a student at a local college to do it. Make sure you work with your web developer in creating your SEO (Search Engine Optimization) for the site. This is most important and is the best way to insure that you can create a web presence that is optimized for search engines. The template DIY websites don’t work well for SEO. SEO will concentrate on key wording, alt tags, one-way links, and proper site submissions.

You now have a business ready to start seeing some return. People are ready to see your business and it’s your job to reach out and find them. It is your job to know your market and tap it with your presence. I suggest that it is priority to get a creative ad on Craigslist. Why not it’s free? Now that you have all of your promotional materials printed out, where are you going to distribute them? Research all local, state, or nationwide wedding industry businesses, and create a directory of them for your advertising. Create your promotional packets with cover letter, brochure, postcards, and a mini portfolio or something that shows your style in more depth. This is a lot of work and may take a while. Get help from friends, family or again posting an ad on Craigslist for some temporary help. After you have mailed everything, follow up with phone calls to let them know who you are. This will help provide a personal connection to your materials and help start future relationships. Building relationships is very important and will help bring work your way through word of mouth. Another great way to build relationships and get your work out is to participate in any bridal shows that come to your area.

Knowing your business and what you offer to your clients and the industry is the most important thing. Just as it is important to know your self-identity as a person, so is it important to know your business identity. When the phone starts ringing people want to see confidence in you and your images. Just remember that images speak louder than words and that the cream always rises to the top.

Good Luck!