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| p.1 #1 · First Year: What I Learned |
I just passed the one year anniversary of my first wedding as a primary wedding photographer and was thinking back on some of the things I've learned. Some of these things may seem obvious to many, but thought it might help others who are just starting out.
I second shot my first five weddings in 2010 and 2011 with some really talented photographers and good friends of mine. I was able to get these gigs based solely on my portfolio of personal work (which is of my family) and limited family sessions I've done in the past. I even booked my first wedding as a primary before I shot my first wedding. The bride booked a package with an album for $3600.
I then second shot a few weddings and had a very small, limited portfolio. I was able to book 5 more weddings based on this work for my old studio. At the time, my wife was unemployed (she's a project manager in construction) so she was helping me with the 'backend' of running a photography business while I maintained my full time job as a high school administrator. My wife was able to start her own consulting company and ultimately gained employment with one of her clients.
Life got really really busy, very very quickly. We contemplated on shutting our studio down due to our priorities in our lives (we have three young sons).
Around the same time, Tony Hoffer was looking at the idea of adding an associate photographer. I messaged Tony that I might be interested. He called, we chatted and were able to construct a situation that was favorable to both of us. This entailed adding a 'studio manager' for me who would replace the role of my wife. I ended up booking five weddings for the fall of 2012 under Hoffer Photography (I just finished my second one).
And here I am.
To say its been a whirlwind would be an understatement. During this process, I learned through successes and failures.
1) Your personal life comes first. I think I've been able to successfully maintain a balance between my full time job, my wedding photography, husband, father, friend, and coach. But it's been hectic. One of the things I've been able to do more often is meet with prospective clients via Skype. I think I come across better in person, but I've found my booking rate to be nearly the same when I do it through Skype. This has allowed me to spend more time at home with the people I love the most.
2) Being a wedding photographer is a lot of work. It's something I realized before I got into it the game, but I dont think I realized exactly how much. Perhaps this is a bit of my otherwise hectic schedule, but I find it a challenge to stay on top of my work. I have to carve out chunks of time to get work done. And most times, I underestimate how much time I actually need. This has lead to arguments at homes. But with most arguments with my wife, they result in solutions. I have opted on a few occasions to outsource some batch editing and a few album designs. This really helped the process. Unfortunately, I did not have that money budgeted, so I did not make as much as I had planned, but the money spent was worth the time I gained.
3) Have a computer/storage plan. This has been a fail for me. I never set out to shoot weddings. I just kind of happened. Before I shot weddings, I was shooting a limited number of family sessions. I was editing on a macbook pro (4gb ram, 2009 core duo, 500gb harddrive) that was given to my by my school. I didnt need anything bigger/faster. Well, fast forward. I'm still using the same machine and I've been struggling to manage harddrive space. I am planning on buying a new iMac with external solution when that is announced, but it hasnt been fun having to move stuff around just to be able to edit.
4) Make people feel good about themselves. This might seem like common sense, so let me explain. I've taught high school for 13 years in Philadelphia. I still really enjoy my job. Part of the reason why is that I'm pretty good at it. I think one of the biggest reasons I've been successful as a teacher is that I try to make kids feel really good about themselves. Even my smartest students dont remember the content of my day to day lessons (that I work really hard to develop). But they always remember how they felt in my classroom. I try to do this with my clients and their families. I spend the time with them throughout the day. Talk to them, listen to them, etc. I am convinced that when they view the photos, they are viewing them through rose colored glasses because they had a positive experience with me, as a person.
5) Be passionate. I find it really interesting that some in this field look at the word "passion" as a negative. Screw that. Embrace your passion. I truly love photographing the human dynamic. I found this out when I was photographing my family. I think that people can see that passion when viewing my family work. To be honest, I dont see it as anything special, yet I get a lot of PMs, emails, comments that tell me otherwise. I think the same thing gets translated in my wedding work. On top of that, from a human perspective, other people want to be around people who are happy/passionate about what they are doing. I think my clients are attracted to that vibe that I'm hopefully putting off. I love my life and I let people know it.
6) Be cool and make connections. Post your work here and on other forums. Comment on other people's work. Tell them what you like, what you dont like. Have a voice. You never know who your voice will strike a chord with. This has been crucial to any successes I've had thus far. I started on FM by showing my shitty family photography. It sucked. And people told me as much! My work got better and people noticed. It connected with some. Some wedding photographers looked at the content/form of the photography (not the subjects) and felt it would transfer to the wedding game. That was never my intention, but I just put the work out there and others connected to it. It also pays off to reach out to others. Again, you never know how you will be received.
7) Help others along the way. Being a dick for the sake of being a dick is never good. You will end up either surrounding yourself with other dicks (not good) or alone. If you think you can help someone, do it. Either do it publicly or use the PM feature. Be good and good things will happen.
This is just a short list of things that jumped out at me. I'm really looking forward to 2013 and hope I get better and learn more!
Edited on Sep 21, 2012 at 04:57 PM · View previous versions