Do you make a living as a wedding photographer?

Discussion in 'Digital SLR' started by DD, Dec 5, 2005.

  1. DD

    DD Guest

    I'm interested in hearing from people around the world on their thoughts
    regarding choosing wedding photography as a vocation. If you could take
    a moment to answer these questions, I would be most appreciative of your
    input.

    1. Where do you see yourself on the socio-economic scale regarding your
    income? i.e. well above average, above average, average, below average,
    well below average.

    2. Do you do it full time as your only source of income or purely as a
    part-time supplement to existing income? If you are doing it full time,
    do you only do weddings? If not, what percentage of your income do
    weddings provide?

    3. How many weddings do you do annually?

    4. How long did it take to establish yourself in the market? What
    marketing techniques did you use? i.e. if advertising, where did you
    advertise?

    5. Do you find it a rewarding profession? In other words, do you feel
    you could have done something else instead of doing weddings?

    6. What do you base your pricing on?

    7. Do you find it very competitive to remain active in this field?

    8. What size market are you working in? i.e. Do you have to travel
    extensively to get commissions or are you in a big enough centre to
    remain locally based?

    9. What kind of output do you provide your customers? i.e. do you simply
    provide prints or do you also compile their albums in addition to other
    offerings, such as CD ROMs, video, etc.

    10. What format equipment have you chosen and why?

    Thanks.
     
    DD, Dec 5, 2005
    #1
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  2. You can do OK if you charge enough and are good enough at it.
    Used to do it as part of other studio photography.
    Used to do 1-2 per month. I didn't want to do more than that...too easy
    to get burned out.
    I never advertised, never did bridal fairs, etc. I just got enough from
    people walking in the door.
    After a while you get tired of going to other people's parties on
    Saturday nights.
    My superb ability and the local market.
    Not really.
    Small community of about 30K. Did most weddings locally, but sometimes
    traveled 20-30 miles.
    Didn't do them in the digital age. Provided prints/albums. Today I
    would provide the same end product.
    Used to use two Hasselblads, 2-light setup. Today would still use 2
    lights, but the 10D or something similar should be sufficient if you
    have good technique.
     
    Randall Ainsworth, Dec 5, 2005
    #2
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  3. DD

    BigPix Guest

    You can't be serious, Dallas.
    Do you really expect anyone to tell you this sort of information about their
    business?

    For every 100 people with cameras who call themselves "Wedding
    Photographers" there are about 8 who actually are. Of those 8, maybe 2,
    actually make their living doing it without needing to have their spouse go
    to work to support them or have their "real" business fund the pretend one.
    How many "Wedding Photographers" do you know who have a barn full of props
    for when the weather turns fowl or the ceremony is overrun by gate crashers?
    For that matter, how many do you know with a wedding garden where they can
    control the lighting for beautiful portraits? Maybe a private jetty for
    those sunset shots over water? hmm? Money Dallas, it separates those who do
    from those who want. You only get it by charging prices that look like an
    exercise in algebra!

    There would be no other business in the world where so many participants
    have so few qualifications and credit card balances that look like serial
    numbers to fund the purchase of the next flavour of the month camera and
    still try to claim they are somehow "Professional Photographers". When I
    obtained my qualifications, I served an apprenticeship for 7 years and got a
    piece of paper in 1962 proclaiming I was a "tradesman Photographer". I also
    got fired because I then qualified for full pay rates. I stole my ex boss's
    booking diary and proceeded to undercut him on price for the next 2 years.
    Then I sold my camera to pay the rent because I just learnt the first lesson
    of business. - It's not about getting work, it's about money and getting
    paid.

    The only thing that has changed is the wannabes who think just because they
    have a DSLR and some other wannabe printed them a diploma, they can undercut
    real Professionals prices. It's not until they get the first letter of
    demand on their cards, they realize if you don't charge enough to make a
    (seemingly) obscene profit, you won't make enough to replace you camera at
    50,000 clicks of using it like a machine gun in the stupid belief you'll get
    at least some good pictures if you shoot a couple of thousand!

    Most of my brides reserve all their spending money for one portrait and a
    hand made album. They rely on the proofs for the rest of their memories. I
    haven't seen too many "bright young Photographers" who have grasped the
    concept that the first reason for being in business is to make money, much
    less be willing to plan and have the ability to create that one portrait
    which sells for twice the price of the whole wedding.

    If you are good enough at managing people, if your efforts to date have all
    been photographing people and you don't drink or smoke (oh yeah-- That's the
    curly one) then maybe you might have a snowflake's hope in hell of getting
    into that 8% who make a living at it. You are too pre occupied with other
    things to get into the 2% who are successful at it. Why don't you see about
    getting a concession in a shopping centre to take kids pics? It's a lot
    easier.
     
    BigPix, Dec 5, 2005
    #3
  4. DD

    Guest Guest


    And I thought the music business was a rip. After reading this I now
    think I'm lucky to be in the music biz and not trying to take pics for a
    living. :)
     
    Guest, Dec 5, 2005
    #4
  5. DD

    Jeremy Nixon Guest

    I did weddings while in college, which might count as some experience; I
    was working for someone else, though, so I have none with the actual business
    of things. I didn't do any selling or anything, I just went where they sent
    me.
    One big reason I abandoned photography in general as a profession is because
    you can make more money for less work doing just about anything else.

    I can afford to do the photography I want because I'm not a professional
    photographer.

    (This is discounting those few superstars, of course.)
    I did 2 weddings per week -- one on Friday night, one sometime Saturday.
    It was enough money for a college kid to make ends meet. Of course, the
    big difference is that I was guaranteed to get paid a certain amount, no
    worries about making the business work.

    (Obviously, as a college kid I was not doing the high-end weddings on
    my own. That would have been more money, but requires a bit more
    experience. Weddings are hard.)
    If your interest is in photography, and you're looking for a way to make
    it your profession, run away. Really. Wedding photography is not about
    photography, it's about people. Sure, you need to know the equipment like
    you know how to breathe, but when you're out there, it's all about dealing
    with people; that's the skill that's going to make the difference for you.

    The richer the people having the wedding are, the more this becomes true.
    Doing a wedding is often an exercise in navigating a political minefield,
    with your success dependent greatly upon whom you make friends with in
    the morning. (The mother of the bride is usually key.)

    And weddings are hard. You've been to weddings, and it doesn't look like
    that big a deal, but it's a situation where you have to get certain things,
    you only get one chance to do it, not getting it is a complete disaster,
    and everyone seems to be working against you. Getting through that isn't
    about being a good photographer.

    Also, it sucks having to dress up for a wedding every weekend.
     
    Jeremy Nixon, Dec 5, 2005
    #5
  6. I've always wanted to go into divorce photography....
     
    uraniumcommittee, Dec 5, 2005
    #6
  7. DD

    Guest Guest

    Now that's a plan! Have your office right next door to a tattoo removal
    place.
     
    Guest, Dec 5, 2005
    #7
  8. DD

    Scott W Guest

    BigPix wrote:
    snip
    A bit bitter about the whole thing are we?

    Scott
     
    Scott W, Dec 5, 2005
    #8
  9. DD

    The Dave© Guest

    I always thought "The Divorce Game" would have been the perfect
    follow-up to "The Newleywed Game". Could've maybe even had some of the
    same contestants... especially after a good fight when he gave the
    wrong answer and she whacked him with the cardboard.
     
    The Dave©, Dec 5, 2005
    #9
  10. DD

    Basic Wedge Guest

    This post should be required reading for anyone considering photography as
    their sole source of income. This, I believe, was written by someone who has
    actually seen just how completely impossible it's becoming to earn a living
    whilst holding a camera. BigPix, whoever you are, thanks for the words of
    wisdom.

    Rob
     
    Basic Wedge, Dec 5, 2005
    #10
  11. DD

    Skip M Guest

    In all the years I've been around the newsgroups, that is the first funny
    thing I've ever seen you say...
     
    Skip M, Dec 6, 2005
    #11
  12. DD

    Skip M Guest

    That would be why I haven't quit my day job. My wife's cousin did it the
    other way, quit his job as a photo assistant for several photogs, started
    his own business, and, after nearly 10 years at it, finally is making it not
    just pay for itself, but he's getting ahead. Way ahead.
    OTOH, our wedding business funds itself, but what it doesn't have to do is
    fund the mortgage, car, Christmas, etc.
     
    Skip M, Dec 6, 2005
    #12
  13. DD

    uw wayne Guest

    You can make more $$$ shooting boudoir....+ sometimes the fringe
    benefits are better...much better!
     
    uw wayne, Dec 6, 2005
    #13
  14. This can be a very lucrative business....but they call themselves Private
    Investigators.......
     
    William Graham, Dec 6, 2005
    #14
  15. DD

    Rich Guest

    Consider yourself lucky you didn't get indicted for fraud.
    -Rich
     
    Rich, Dec 6, 2005
    #15
  16. DD

    Skip M Guest

    Until word gets around, then, for some reason, business dries up...
    And you can't really make more money at boudoir, just stay busier.
     
    Skip M, Dec 6, 2005
    #16
  17. DD

    uw wayne Guest

    Skip, it was my attempt at a little humor. I was only kidding. Very
    nice material on shadow...Thanks for sharing, uw_w.
     
    uw wayne, Dec 6, 2005
    #17
  18. DD

    Skip M Guest

    Sorry, missed the humor, that, upon re-reading, was, at least, catchable!
    <G>
    I just had a prolonged discussion with someone, person to person, on that
    very subject, but in a serious vein, so my humor was a little impaired at
    that point.
    And thanks for the kind words!
     
    Skip M, Dec 6, 2005
    #18
  19. DD

    DD Guest

    <snip>

    Douglas, if you don't want to answer the questions (which I might add
    are pretty innocuous), ignore them.

    Simple really.
     
    DD, Dec 6, 2005
    #19
  20. DD

    Chrlz Guest

    ...(good stuff snipped)...
    (applause) - nice post, BigPix..

    Frankly, if you are asking those questions, DD, you're not even close
    to ready, nor have you done any homework..

    And before you ask, yes, I did weddings a for a few years, working for
    a metropolitan studio with a very good name, using Bronica MF equipment
    in the days well before digital. It was interesting and I learnt a lot
    (and had a 3 month apprenticeship while I did that learning under
    supervision), but after about a year, it became hard to inject fresh
    ideas and be excited by the results. The clients still loved my stuff
    (it was fresh to *them*), but I lost interest and found it was eating
    into what had been an enjoyable hobby. I stopped before it killed my
    photography, and it took a couple of years to get re-motivated.

    You need to be an organiser - in fact you will end up running a lot of
    the wedding becasue no-one else wants to, and they will quickly realise
    you know what you are doing! You need to be flexible and patient, yet
    quick to react, you need absolute faith in, and knowledge of, your
    equipment (of which you must have two of everything if you are
    serious), you need to understand the protocols of churches, religions
    and cultures and be able to discuss options in detail with couples and
    their families, ministers and celebrants, you need backup areas/plans
    for bad weather, you need to be able to diplomatically deal with the
    inevitable morons (eg who will set up video lights in the church
    without even asking permission, etc) and you need to know your market.
    I see little evidence of most of those...

    But there is also the 'downmarket'. Plenty of folk couldn't tell the
    difference between good wedding photography and their... They will be
    satisfied with almost anything - although if your prices are too high,
    they will get Uncle Arthur to do it because he has a professional
    looking camera and a flashgun..
     
    Chrlz, Dec 6, 2005
    #20
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