I was recently invited by the Kinning Park Camera Club to give a talk on the world of wedding photography. I must admit to being a little hesitant at first, wondering how to approach such a chat and what topics to cover.
Eventually I settled on discussing some of the business aspects of wedding photography, rather than focusing on techniques and photographic skills. So this leads me to today's post, which is a kind of summary of my endless waffling from last night.
1. In the wedding business word of mouth is key.
This means that people skills, good humour, good customer service, delivering on your promises and going that extra mile do make a big difference. If you can make a customer a promoter of your business to others, then that's free promotion with the added weight of personal opinion.
The opposite is also true, if you turn up in a mood, treat your wedding party and guests dismissively, fail to deliver the product you promised and don't listen to your customer, you won't succeed in the long wrong, no matter how good a photo you take.
2. A wedding photography business is a business
When you stop shooting free weddings for friends and take a payment from someone, you are in business. You need to think as a business from day one, acquire the necessary insurance for your equipment, liability insurance and even employer insurance if you plan on using assistants. You need to be thinking about registering for tax and national insurance, whether to go into business as a sole trader or limited company, your business name and brand and all the things that go with that. If you are at all unsure on any aspect, speak to a lawyer about the business and an accountant about handling your money.
It's very important to calculate your expenses correctly, whether it be the cost of business cards, replacing equipment, the miles to and from the weddings and wedding meetings or the cost of heating your office while you spend long hours editing. Your time should also be factored in, as any hour you spend shooting, editing or travelling is something you want to be paid for.
It's equally important to book your income correctly, make sure each payment you receive is documented, invoiced and receipted. This means that when it comes time to fill in your self assessment tax form you have all the necessary paperwork already in order.
Business Gateway offer a number of seminars that can help you with some of the practical aspects of this and I highly recommend looking up your local offices.
If you are shooting weddings to fund your next photography gadget, then you are financing a hobby, not running a business.
3. You have to enjoy it
I've met a few jaded veterans who are just in it for the long run. That tends to come through in their formulaic approach to their work, the lack of real fun in their results and the way a lot of their weddings are basically photocopied from the last wedding. If you enjoy the wedding, interact with the people, understand the desires and aspirations of the couple, you really will find that your work improves and captures it well.
4. Learn new tricks
This is a point I missed in my chat, though I did discuss some ways of gathering knowhow. It's a good idea to be experimental and try new tricks, once you have your safe shots as it can sometimes give surprising results. In this digital age the bad photo can be discarded and the surprisingly good one can be retained. Tutorial days and courses can help you to develop and improve your skills or think outside your own box.
5. Promote what works
Identify your market carefully and find the ways to promote to that market. See what your competition does, see who is really doing well. Don't copy, be inspired to do better. If a particular promotion route does not return on your investment i.e. a 300 GBP magazine advert doesn't gain you more than 300 GBP of profit, then ditch it and find a promotion route that works. It's important therefore to identify how your wedding couples found you, whether it be word of mouth, a wedding fayre, the web or press/print.
There's more points too, but I'll save them for another day. But I am quite thankful to KPCC, for making me think a little harder about my business as I worked on my presentation to them.