Which Business? – Wedding Photography
This week’s “Which Business” episode is on Weddings. Everyone that starts out doing family portraits wants to get into shooting weddings. It seems like it’s the next step on the ladder, but it’s not for everyone.
I started out shooting sports and then a few family portraits. When I thought about weddings it was the money that enticed me. Back then I wasn’t charging enough for my work so a $1000 wedding was just what I needed. I offered two prices, $750 (6hrs) and $1000(8hrs). That year I booked 7 weddings at $750, and none at $1000.
Those weddings were easy, I’d take the booking and then meet with them 2 or 3 weeks before the big day to plan it out. Then shoot the wedding, and deliver the digital files within 2 weeks.
When I raised my prices over the next 2 years I started offering albums and prints in my packages. The amount of time you need to spend with the customer quadruples and a lot of the fun was gone. Even though I was getting $2500 plus, the amount of time I put into a wedding was crazy. I’m glad I did weddings for a few years, but I definitely don’t miss them.
It takes a certain type of person to enjoy doing weddings, and I wasn’t one of them.
Although, I always tried to get the wedding party to do a jump shot. The majority of them loved the idea, and everyone wanted a copy of the wedding party airborne. This did backfire once, the wedding party was Scottish and the guys were wearing kilts. There are some things you can’t un-see. Lots of fun and disturbing at the same time.
Now I always say that a professional photographer should carry a backup camera body, and weddings are the number one reason you need one. This is a really big day for the couple and their family and you only get one go at it. Don’t ruin their day because your camera body died halfway through the ceremony. I also advise that your second body is the same as your first body. Fiddling around trying to change settings on a different camera model isn’t good.
Your lenses need to be professional in quality. Whether you use zooms or primes they need to give sharp images. If you shoot zooms then a 24-70mm 2.8 will be your workhorse lens. I used to carry a 24-70 2.8, 70-200 2.8, and a 50mm 1.4. The 50 1.4 was for indoors so I didn’t need to use a flash. Later on, I got into flash and used the 24-70 most of the time.
If you choose primes you could use 24mm, 35mm, 50mm, and 85mm. But using primes means changing lenses when a different focal length is required. You could use 2 bodies with different lenses on to cut down the changes needed. If you do use 2 bodies make sure you set the date and time of each camera to match. That way when you put your images into Lightroom they will be in the correct order.
Prime lenses offer super sharp images and weigh less than zooms, so your back will thank you at the end of the wedding.
Checking out the church and venue
Like with any photo shoot you need to check out where you are going to be working. Get to know the reception venues in your area. A few weeks before every wedding pay a visit to the church and see how the light comes through the windows. Make a plan for where you are going to shoot from. It’ll make your life a lot easier on the day of the wedding.
Your website is the hub for your business. All ads and marketing should send potential customers to your website. Make sure your portfolio is current and shows what you want to sell. Don’t show photos of church weddings if you want to book outdoor weddings.
Set up a mailing list on your website and stay in contact with visitors.
Google My Business & Google Ads
Get listed at the top of the search page for wedding photographers in your area. It’s free and the easiest way to get bookings.
You can also pay to put your listing at the top of Google search results. I would use these ads instead of Facebook ads.
Facebook Groups & Ads
Join Facebook groups related to weddings in your area. Give lots of free advice, but don’t try to sell. Make sure they all know you are a wedding photographer, and post images from your latest weddings instead of asking for bookings. If they like your work they’ll book you.
Facebook ads work but can be costly. Start with a small budget and see how many bookings you get.
I have done a few wedding vendor events and didn’t get many bookings from them. They can be expensive and you need to invest in how your booth looks. Putting a few 8×10 prints on a table won’t do it.
They have disappeared due to the pandemic, but they’ll be back soon I’m sure.
Promoting Venues and Vendors
Promote other vendors like DJs, videographers, caterers, stagers, MCs, Officiants, and the company that made the cake. Supply them with photos for their website free of charge, just ask them to give you credit. Help them and they’ll promote you.
For venues write reviews on your website. Make your site the go-to place for information on wedding venues. If they start getting bookings from visitors to your website, talk to them about becoming a preferred photographer at their venue. Plus, just the fact your venue reviews are bringing people to your website will surely get you more bookings.
Wedding Photography Contract
Having a contract is crucial to protecting yourself.
A contract should answer at least the following questions:
- What are you required to deliver to the customer? Which plan, how many hours?
- Who is responsible for mistakes, accidents, or oversights that might result in liability or lawsuits from others?
- What will you be paid? Deposit/balance and when
- Who owns the copyright on images?
- What happens if the wedding is canceled at the last minute?
- Can your client license your photographs to a third party, such as a wire service?
- Model Release: Can you use the images on your website?
- Do you need a meal?
You can put an agreement together yourself, but I’m not qualified to give advice on this. So get in touch with a legal specialist to make sure it’s legally binding.
Most wedding photographers sell packages like bronze, silver, and gold. As I’ve said before you are limiting how much your customer can spend. You could do an à la carte menu. Have a cost per hour, and everything else can be picked from the menu. Although this is easier said than done when all your competition is selling packages. Maybe try one package that would have been your silver, and have lots of other menu options.
You don’t add too many products to your packages, that is products that you need to pay for. Also, make sure your digital files are priced high. Shoot and burn photography doesn’t pay. Only offer them for sale if they pass say, $2500 or more.
If I was going to start doing weddings again I would do 3 packages based on time only. I’d make sure the cheapest was for only 3 hours. No one would pick that one. The middle one would be 6 hours and the top one 8 hours. Charge for extra hours and have prints, books, albums, and digital files as add-ons to the package price.
Don’t underprice yourself, I can’t tell you how many times during a wedding I have asked a videographer how much they charge and it was twice as much as I had charged. It’s not a good feeling. Get bookings because your images are great, not because you are cheap.
Oh and take a 50% deposit and the balance needs to be paid before you start working on the images. I’ve had a couple of grooms insist I give them the finished products before they pay me. Once they knew I wouldn’t even touch the images until they pay, they quickly sent me the balance. Make sure in your contract that you mention this and put a fee on bounced cheques. Although I think you should only accept direct e-payments. There is no reason to be messing around with cheques anymore.
If you want to accept credit card payments, look into Square or PayPal. They will send you a card reader so you can take payments through your phone or pad. You can also receive payments through your website using Stripe and PayPal.
Shooting a wedding for a full day is tiring work, but it can be extremely rewarding. You need to be fast thinking and know how to use your camera in all situations.
If you are asking people on Facebook “what settings should you use for a wedding?”, you are not ready. Educate yourself and use your equipment like a pro.