My name is Andy Hudson, and I’m the co-founder of Photographers Keeping it Real. We recently asked our Facebook group for one golden rule of business they believed hugely important.
As you’d expect, we got some “golden egg” answers and some more on the dog egg side of the spectrum, but the latter ones weren’t serious and quite amusing — like “remember to take the lens cap off,” for example (hah!).
Here are our top business tips for wedding photographers courtesy of our awesome community, in their words:
So my golden rule of business is to only show the kind of imagery that you want to shoot at future weddings.
For myself, I’m candid, natural, documentary; so all the images that I show on my social media and website are evidence of this. I don’t ever show anyone looking at the camera, or group shots – I will probably do the odd one of these on the day, but they’re my least favourite part, and not a true representations of me and my business – marketing myself this way means that it’s usually my couples least favourite part too, so we can just power through it and get back on with natural, real reportage stuff.
Laughter is one of my absolute favorite things to capture, so I also show the laughing faces that are unflattering and have double chins, because I want the kind of couples who aren’t bothered about this. If they want every picture to make them look like a model – then I’m not the photographer for them! But if they want someone who will capture the real fun, emotion and happiness, then I am.
This was one of the most important things I ever did for my business, I am now booking couples who are much more suited to me… couples who are cool as hell!
We’re all creating beautiful images, but what needs to stand out from the rest will be your personality and who you truly are.
As photographers’ we’re all creating beautiful images. We shoot and edit in our own unique style, and apply this personal stamp in order to create images that not only convey how we see the current situation, but the world in general. So, in an increasingly saturated market of brilliant imagery, how can we stand out?
For me, the personalities behind any business are key to its success. Clients, of course, are investing in your imagery, but first and foremost they are investing in you. I want couples to book me not only as they love my images, but because they love me as a person. We invest and spend so much time on any given wedding day with a couple, that being a friend instead of just another supplier is important to me. It enables me to create my desired style of photographs.
Instagram stories, Facebook and the ‘About me’ section of my website are the easiest platforms to inject my personality and for potential and current clients to get to know me. I love music, to travel, my Grandad and camper vans, plus I’m generally a little bit bonkers! So I embrace this and convey my personality through social media in order to attract my ideal couples. As a result I am now capturing the type of weddings I want.
Don’t shoot like other people because you think they’re cool or successful.
Ok, I did it when I started out in the wedding industry. I saw all these people I thought had it nailed down tight, the whole wedding thing, those megasupercoolawesomeduderadtastic shots. Cool pictures every bride would love, Pinterest was my friend, smoke bombs, prisms, baubles, Christmas lights, ring of burning fire, balloons, look disinterested stand 4 feet apart while holding hands, get in really close, back out really far – trends, not photography, not special, not me…but I did it anyway because I didn’t know any better.
After a while you start to see a pattern, Jonny cool bollocks or whatever their name is does something and before you know it 80% of the wedding photographic community is doing it too, simply because JCB did it and you’ve no ideas of your own.
Here’s the thing, JCB probably isn’t anything special, they’re popular sure…but being popular isn’t being a photographer is it? Is that you as a photographer? Really, ask yourself, is it? It’s like calling yourself Picasso when all you’re really doing is sticking a bit of tracing paper over a Picasso and drawing around the lines. How are you going to stand out? What makes you special? Are you a photographer or a pale imitation of someone else? Copying perceived popularity is the quickest way to limit yourself as a photographer.
The wedding industry is crying out for something different, fact….be different, be you.
The best ‘photographers’ are usually not the ones with the most successful wedding photography businesses.
I see accomplished photographers producing good or great work up and down the UK but not booking as many weddings as they should. That is because they see themselves as ‘photographers’ first. Loving photography is wonderful if it’s a hobby, but that isn’t what allows you to make a living from it. A phrase I firmly believe in is – ‘Business 1st – Photography 3rd’. Most then ask what is 2nd, and the truth is I don’t know, but my point is that photography is not important enough to be 2nd. It is the business side of things that’s the most important and what will enable your ‘business’ to thrive.
An excellent photographer who is poor at business will most likely fail. A poor photographer who excels at business will make it work. The holy grail though is both. Nearly every prolific photographer you see generally produces wonderful photos and are also excellent at running their business, although I do think many of them could do even better if they honed their business skills even more.
My tip: Don’t buy new cameras and lenses, don’t hire models to practice your skills, stop chatting about pretty photos and how they were created, and stop envying other photographers for the work they produce. None of this will book you more weddings. Develop your business skills, hire a mentor, seek advice and guidance on your business – this WILL help you have a stronger business.
Be totally honest and transparent about everything you do and how you work. I’m brutally open – it’s a trust-based relationship that you’re building with clients. Answer every email, message or question straight away and as fully as you can (even if it’s stupid) because they’ve mostly never done this before. Overdeliver. Finish every communication with a smiley face.
Social media; don’t believe the hype.
Show me a Rockstar wedding photographer with hundreds of thousands of online followers, an amazing portfolio, a glittering career and an endless supply of clients ready & willing to spend a fortune, and I’ll show you how quickly my bullsh*t detector goes into meltdown.
Don’t hold yourself up to an impossible standard because you see X photographer on Instagram shooting a celebrity couple in the Bahamas, or Y photographer (who’s only been in the business 5 minutes) winning every award you’ve struggled for years to attain. These shared images & tales of success are as carefully culled & curated as any wedding you’ll ever shoot.
Social media can be amazing of course, but equally dangerous; for creatives who generally work alone most of the time, it can be downright soul-destroying. Take everything you see with a pinch of salt, enjoy the pretty pictures, and focus on your craft & business first.
You are just as much the product as the photos they are purchasing … Don’t sell yourself only through your images!
One main principle many photographers seem to forget these days is the potential connection and bond we are able to forge with our clients. We need to make sure that we are making just as much effort to sell ourselves as individuals as we do our images.
Remember first impressions are very powerful, and if we are able to make our potential clients feel comfortable and create a bond with them, it’s only natural that they will find it much harder to choose someone else over you when making their final decision. We are just as much of the product we are selling to potential clients as the images we will eventually provide them with, so it is very important we make sure that we do not undersell ourselves as unique photographers and unique individuals.
So there you have it, top business tips for wedding photographers by amazing and successful people working first hand in the industry. We hope they help you grow your business to new levels.
About the author: Andy Hudson is the co-founder of Photographers Keeping it Real, a website, award, and podcast for documentary wedding photographers. The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the authors. You can find more content by Hudson and connect with him on his website and Facebook group. This article was also published here.