1. Everybody Starts Somewhere
By the time I began my Pokemon Go journey, others much more experienced than I was had been levelling up their characters and Pokemon. As I inspected each Gym, I saw exotic Pokemon with CP1500+. There was no chance in hell that I could compare.
The same applies in the wedding photography industry. There will be wedding photographers who have years of experience ahead of you. There will be wedding photographers with have stronger networks and solid referral circles. They’ll have amazing portfolios featuring venues that you can only dream of shooting at. In every single way, they’ll have a flashier website, a stronger marketing foundation, and have more past customers singing their praises.
It’s so easy to compare yourself with others and feel inadequate, frustrated, and impatient. If it is any reassurance, every successful wedding photographer before you started from scratch as well. And it took persistence, hard work, and grit to get them to where they are today.
Just as I make my way through Pokemon Go at my own pace, you should focus on your short term goals as a emerging wedding photographer. Comparing yourself with established businesses will only lead you down a path of negativity.
2. You Can’t Catch Them All
There are supposedly 151 Pokemon but chances are that you’ll never see all 151 on your screen, let alone catch them all. Just as there are plenty of wild Pokemon out there, there are plenty of marrying couples getting married on a weekly basis.
I once saw a Gyarados but as I was a passenger in a car, I was unable to even click on it before it disappeared on the screen. I’ve run out of Pokeballs. I’ve had my internet connection cut out on me. I’ve used 10+ Pokeballs and razz berries to only have a wild Pokemon run away. Trying to catch every single Pokemon is impossible!
At times, you’ll say all the right things to a prospective client and even throw in a free engagement session or a free canvas print to only have them disappear on you. Remember, you can’t catch them all. Remember to enjoy what you do and have fun. Don’t get caught up on the fear of losing out. It’s a multi-billion dollar industry with couples getting married every single day of the week.
Do the work.
Take care of existing customers (paid or otherwise).
And paying customers will come.
3. Patience Is Everything
From reading forums dedicated to Pokemon Go, I’ve come to understand that there is an efficient way to exponentially levelling up in the game. Using a combination of existing candies, lots of captured Pidgey Pokemon, and a thing called a Lucky Egg, I can (in theory) gain a lot of XP within 30-minutes by mass-evolving each Pidgey into a Pigeotto and once more into a Pigeot. But first, I must have a lot of the Pidgey Pokemon and a lot of Pidgey candy. That all takes time.
The key to a successful business is a smart mixture of being profitable and having constant cash flow to keep the business afloat. There are no shortcuts and each step of the journey requires significant effort and time.
When you’re just starting out, you’ll need to build a portfolio that demonstrates that you are competent in photography. You’ll then have to book enough clients to bring revenue in. After a certain period of time, you will probably define who your ideal client is and once again, carve out an appropriate portfolio/branding/experience that resonates with said customer profile. Each step requires time and effort. You cannot rush it.
One day, you’ll have a 1700 CP rare Pokemon too. Maybe.
4. Spending Money Is Easy. Making Money Is Hard
I made a promise to never spend a dime on Pokemon Go (or any in-app purchase). I intend on keeping it. But having run out of Pokeballs before, I can understand how easily it can be for someone very invested in the game to spend real money. Making those hard earned dollars back in Pokemon Go as it stands, is impossible. I think.
When it comes to operating a wedding photography business, any form of marketing is a bottomless pit for money. Buying necessary backup and insurances cost money. Buying coffees at consults is money. Owning two current DSLRs and an arsenal of fast zoom and primes is very expensive (even more if you don’t have insurance!).
Before you spend a dime on your business, know your game plan. Many business expenditures are unavoidable (e.g. having a competent accountant, public liability insurance, equipment insurance, vehicular insurance, storage disks etc.) so figure out why you’re spending each dollar before doing so.
5. Cheating Is Bad Mmmmkay?
Niantic Labs have banned Pokemon Go users who have used GPS spoofing to give them an unfair advantage. Google has penalised webmasters who have adopted poor SEO practices. And today’s Instagram user can easily tell when an account has acquired fake followers.
If you cheat the system, there will be consequences.
P.S.: if you steal another photographer’s work claiming it as your own, you’ll be called out for it. Publicly. As you should be.
6. Equipment Matters
Once I reached Level 10, wild Pokemon (even low CP ones) progressively became more difficult to catch. The standard Pokeball was no longer good enough to capture high CP pokemon. Instead, I had to use a limited supply of Great Balls and even they didn’t promise a 100% success rate.
Equipment matters. It always matters.
Having an appropriate camera with clean high ISO performance and fast and accurate autofocus will yield better results than a camera with poor high ISO performance and sub-par autofocus system. This is fact.
Just as you must master the curve ball and us the right Pokeball, you must master your craft as a photographer and use the right tools for the job.
7. Know When To Say No
This one time a 535CP Kangaskhan appeared on my phone. I threw countless Pokeballs at it, fed it razz berries and began emptying my Great Ball arsenal in hope of capturing it. By the fifth Great Ball, I gave up. It just wasn’t worth the effort because (a) a Kangaskhan was a final evolution meaning that there was no real value in keeping it and (b) I already had one.
Similarly, I’ve emailed couples back and forth, met with them, and even offered them a discount on their wedding photography only to have them turn around and ask for a further discount. Know when to say no. Remember that you can’t catch them all.
8. Take A Break Every Once In A While
Just as the Pokemon Go app can deplete your battery in less than 3 hours, running a creative small business on your own without a break will burn you out. Remember to take care of your physical and mental health. Without those, your business will crumble.
9. Belonging To A Team Is Important
I joined Team Valor for no particular reason. But in Pokemon Go, belonging to a team gives your identify and a combined purpose. A group of you can take over a rival gym and reap the rewards together. The same applies in wedding photography.
Find your tribe of people who understand what being a creative small business owner entails. Connect with link-minded people who will become your inner support circle. While there are no rivals to be defeated, there are plenty of challenges and pitfalls as a wedding photographer and your team/tribe will help you through.
10. Don’t Be Fooled By Numbers Alone
As you begin to train your star Pokemon at friendly gyms or battle at rival gyms, you’ll soon realise that CP isn’t everything. A high CP does not guarantee an instant win. Instead, you must understand the strengths and weaknesses of Pokemon class types. I recently discovered that the same Pokemon can have different battle skills. To my dismay, my highest CP Pokemon (and one that I had spent considerable stardust on powering up) had a very weak attack.
Without a conversion goal, most social metrics (likes, comments, shares, visits) are noise. Don’t be fooled by Instagram likes unless it is producing you with the results you desire. Don’t get personally attached to how many likes you receive on your Facebook business page unless it is paired with a conversion goal. And if you’re going to advertise, dive deeper than monthly viewership data and ask other wedding photographers/vendors how their advertising efforts have fared.
About the author: Daniel Cheung of Angus Porter Photography is a Sydney-based wedding and family lifestyle photographer. Second to coffee, strategy and digital marketing keep him awake at night. The opinions in this post are solely those of the author. You can connect with Daniel through LinkedIn, Facebook, and Email. This article was also published here.