5 Tips for Running a Sustainable Wedding Photography Business

A couple in wedding attire dances joyfully on an outdoor patio at sunset. The bride wears a white gown and the groom is in a gray suit. Guests stand and watch them, smiling. A scenic vineyard and distant hills are visible in the background.

Sustainability. How do we build a wedding photography business that survives more than a few years? Can we grow profits, avoid burnout, and create long-term value for ourselves and our company?

I’m not necessarily talking about sustainability in the sense that you’re going to build a green wedding business, although you might, but I will use that as an example. Environmental sustainability talks about avoiding the depletion of natural resources. In the same way, I want you to build a business that avoids depleting your resources.

Your resources might include things like finances, mental stamina, physical health, creativity, and time. The following wedding photography business tips will help you increase your resources rather than deplete them. And I’m going to just start with the hard one, money.

Tip #1. Stop Undercharging

An undeniable goal of business is money. Even if we make the bold and brave choice to follow a passion, we need profits. We can’t create art if we can’t afford to.

When you’re just starting out you might offer ridiculously generous pricing because you’re asking someone to take a risk on you and your lack of experience. But even then, you’re going to work hard and give someone something of value. For some reason, it’s hard to stop the cycle of feeling like someone is doing you a favor by hiring you.

You are doing your clients a favor by creating beautiful work for them. We’ll talk about value in the next section but undercharging is the fastest way to ensure that you’ll have to quit and go get a real job. Not to mention the fact that undercharging harms the industry as a whole.

What should you charge? Start with charging enough to be able to run your business profitably and pay yourself a decent salary including things like health insurance and IRA contributions. Our clients have those things, why shouldn’t we?

Bride and groom dance under string lights at an outdoor wedding reception. Guests stand around, holding sparklers, smiling, and watching the couple. The scene is festive, with warm lighting creating a cozy atmosphere.

Tip #2. Value Yourself

Sometimes our issues with money come from not valuing ourselves. Money becomes the representation of something deeper. When we don’t value ourselves, it often leads to taking on clients that don’t value us either.

Do you want to know the difference between the days that I love what I do and the days when I literally daydream of having a boring day job? It’s when my clients appreciate my hard work and show me both with their thanks and their payment. In contrast, the clients who try to get more from me for less, those clients take it out of me.

The aspect of this scenario that I have control over is which clients I take on. What if I value myself enough to believe I deserve awesome clients? Note that awesome clients don’t always have to be high-paying clients.

Another thing that can help is to separate the business from the passion, though I’ll admit that this one is harder for me. Essentially the idea is to recognize that some work you just do for the business while other work you do for creativity or passion. Either way, you have to value yourself enough to make a good business decision such as getting paid well.

A long outdoor dinner setup with multiple tables aligning lengthwise, seated with numerous guests enjoying a meal. The scene is decorated with white string lights, rustic table settings, and surrounded by trees and greenery, creating a festive and inviting atmosphere.

Tip #3. Build Relationships

Switching gears here, let’s talk about the importance of relationships in building a sustainable business. If you’re wonderful to work with you’re more likely to get more referrals and reviews. Wedding photography is, after all, a service industry so it helps if you care about people.

I remind myself constantly that serving my clients well will serve me well. It sounds selfish when I put it like that but it’s not really something you can fake. Genuinely caring about your clients or other vendors will help you build a strong business over time.

As an important note, all of these tips build on each other. It’s hard to care about your clients if they aren’t paying you well and you don’t feel valued. When I know a couple has sought us out and that they really love our work enough to book a big package or even stretch a modest budget, I find myself working extra hard for them too.

Relationships can be win-win. The couple wants awesome wedding pictures and you want to capture those memorable moments for them. When it works out like that, the couple is happy to pay their invoice just like you’re happy to buy something from your favorite brand.

It’s important to note that relationships with other photographers, wedding planners, and just people in general can help you in your business. You never know when a relationship or a connection will be something you can lean on.

A couple sits outdoors at what appears to be a wedding reception. The woman, dressed in a white wedding gown, is laughing heartily while holding a glass of champagne. The man, dressed in a vest, tie, and cowboy hat, smiles and holds her hand. String lights are visible in the background.

Tip #4. Set a Budget and Income Goals

Ok, we have to circle back to the money stuff. I mean that’s what we’re really talking about here. Unless you don’t actually need money?

If you’re choosing to be self-employed you’re going to have to familiarize yourself with budgeting. Start by creating a personal budget with your housing and food costs eventually adding all the things you spend money on in your personal life. Then you’ll do the same with your business.

Once you know how much money you need you will be able to determine how much money you need to make.

It’s easy to calculate the recurring costs that happen monthly like a cell phone bill. The hard part is that you also need to budget for inevitable expenses that tend to sneak up on you if you don’t plan for them. Think of things like repair or replacement costs for everything from your car to your camera.

It’s inevitable. Neither your car nor your camera will last forever and it’s a big expense that can blow a monthly budget if you don’t save for it. A realistic budget will help you set income goals that ensure profitability.

A serene night scene depicts a cozy lakeside gathering. Lights illuminate a rustic house and a large tent reflected in the still water. A bonfire surrounded by people emits a warm glow, while a star-studded sky stretches over the silhouetted hills in the background.

Tip #5. Pivot, Diversify, Think Outside the Box

Business arguably requires just as much creativity as photography. We think of photography as the creative part and business as the uninspired part. But if anything requires creative problem solving it’s building a sustainable business.

What are you going to do if there’s a pandemic that puts all weddings on hold? What’s your plan if you run out of weekends to shoot weddings before you make enough money? How are you going to find new clients when your old marketing techniques stop working?

Be prepared to pivot, diversify, or think outside the box. Just like with art, there are constraints and rules but sometimes you have to be creative within those constraints. I admire the photographers and creatives who are always coming up with new concepts or new ways of doing things.

Some people have a knack for breaking the mold and in the process, they create a new mold. We look at creative ideas and think how obvious it is but that first person had to break through what felt impossible. It’s like breaking records, we don’t know if humans can run any faster or jump any higher but someone has to be willing to try in order for all of us to advance.

In Summary

Let’s review the wedding photography business tips that will help you build a sustainable business. Sometimes we’re focused only on the moment, getting this one job. It’s important to focus on building something for the long term and think ahead to the plan for future jobs.

  1. Stop undercharging
  2. Value yourself
  3. Build relationships
  4. Set a budget and income goals
  5. Pivot, diversify, and think outside the box

What else would you add? What are your ideas for building something that lasts? People see jobs like photography as risky because it’s generally not a 9-5 with a 401k, but all it means is that you have to plan for your future a little differently.

About the author: Brenda Bergreen is a Colorado wedding photographer, videographer, yoga teacher, and writer who works alongside her husband at Bergreen Photography. With their mission and mantra “love. adventurously.” they are dedicated to telling adventurous stories in beautiful places.