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How did you get to where you are today?
  
 
SGallant
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p.1 #1 · p.1 #1 · How did you get to where you are today?


So I was going to respond in Mike's thread. http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/topic/1283903/0 But this is so far off topic from what he had there I didn't want to hijack it. So why not make this into a thread for everyone.

Here is my answer to D.Digler's question.
D. Diggler wrote:
Holy sh**, Sean! I didn't know you had come so far is such a short amount of time. What's the trick? What are you doing different now?


Yeah dude, it was a little over 2 years ago that I made the decision to pursue weddings. And I started at $999, I now book up to $5k weddings and I have since photographed 54 weddings and generated $72k my second year (most went back into the business, this year I intend to spend very little on the business). I have also booked my first ever wedding having an associate shoot for me for 2015 (at my regular pricing), something just a year ago I was certain I would never ever do. But do to an interesting set of circumstances it all just came together and I think I may run with it.

Along the way I know I made a ton of mistakes that I had to learn from. One of the biggest mistakes I think I did was caring what other photographers are doing. I also figured out that what works for someone else doesn't necessarily work for me. And you have to give everything your own fair shot. For instance, my number one source of leads is the Knot while I found bridal shows to be an utter failure for me (and I even tried a couple of $4k shows). Most people I have ever spoken to told me how great the shows were and how awful the knot is for them.

My biggest changes in my business happened when my reputation was built, and I had a portfolio I could proudly show. Now I have a bridal salon owner and staff actively referring me on top of everything else. While they would be happy to do it free. I PAY them a hefty % commission on every wedding I get (this is my choice). As I believe every wedding has a cost of acquisition, and while I expect this to go down over time. I don't believe it will ever be $0 and I want this relationship to be long term.

Best trick I can tell you is do the right thing with your clients and believe in your work and yourself. You got hired because your clients believe in you. Shoot and treat every wedding like they paid you for your top package. Make sure you charge enough for every wedding that you show up happy to be there, not OMG I have to shoot wedding today...damn. Show full real weddings in your presentation not just the best of the best on your website, this is a great way to set proper expectations as to what will be delivered. When you have proper expectations it's easy to have happy clients.

What I just went through, is why when I see you and Joey talking about how you can't do it, I call bullsh%t. I still have a lot of room to improve, but this is a marathon for me not a sprint. One last note, I half ass nothing, I am not afraid to spend money or take on long term goals and projects. I built my business from day 1 as if I was going to be shooting weddings starting at $4k (still not there yet, but on track) and I put in an infrastructure to support that including networking, proper gear, delivery and image processing, and any other back-end systems and processes I need to make my client's lives easier.

How did you get to where you are?



Apr 03, 2014 at 02:04 PM
carriedaway
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p.1 #2 · p.1 #2 · How did you get to where you are today?


Very inspiring post. This is my first year focusing on weddings. I've been second shooting for two years, and I think I *might* be ready to take the plunge. I have 3 booked for this year (hopefully getting a few more by the end). I tried a bridal show in January, and got 0 results, but I think it might have been my fault- I was incredibly awkward and felt I was in way over my head. I'm afraid to spend money on online advertising, but I guess I won't know unless I try...


Apr 03, 2014 at 02:43 PM
SGallant
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p.1 #3 · p.1 #3 · How did you get to where you are today?


carriedaway wrote:
Very inspiring post. This is my first year focusing on weddings. I've been second shooting for two years, and I think I *might* be ready to take the plunge. I have 3 booked for this year (hopefully getting a few more by the end). I tried a bridal show in January, and got 0 results, but I think it might have been my fault- I was incredibly awkward and felt I was in way over my head. I'm afraid to spend money on online advertising, but I guess I won't know unless I try...


What would change *might* to ready? Bridal shows take a certain person and setup I guess to work it. I was a salesman earlier in my life so I have no problems being on stage and talking to 10 people at once and making everyone feel included. I created a big presentation with large prints, slideshow, books, giveaways, handouts and misc items. I still did poorly, and I freely accept it's just not my thing at least not now.

I would absolutely take to online paid advertising with one of the bigger networks, like the knot or wedding wire. Try and get any clients you have worked with to go out and give you reviews. I think this is one of the first thing couples look for on the knot & ww. It's a quick way to differentiate you, if you will. Also, here is another bad word I left out of my original post, my first couple of weddings I ever booked were off of Craigslist.

The point is, early on you just need weddings, experience, and a portfolio, get them however you can. Anything you do that is paid, which includes paid in your time (so if it takes you 30 minutes to look through CL) track the results to booking. And if it isn't working after a fair share of time, kill it. I had NYC & Philly on the Knot at one point. Gave them 6 months. They did nothing for me. I now have NNJ and CNJ only.



Apr 03, 2014 at 03:01 PM
Tony Hoffer
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p.1 #4 · p.1 #4 · How did you get to where you are today?


I think our path might be a bit different than some, but so far so good.

We never really intended to have a business or anything. I just started shooting, got hired, kept shooting, ect... Over the years I realized that I never really had a goal of growing my business or anything like that. I still don't really. So while I've really grown to like and appreciate running a business, I realized that my only goal was to just be a really good photographer.

I think that goal has driven the car down the road and the weddings we've booked and referrals we've made have kind of joined along for the ride. That's not meant to sound like it was accidental. It certainly wasn't. Simply that I've just had a goal to get really good at photography. Maybe someday I'll get there. In the process, I think we've found enough people that like our work. Some are clients that discover us, some are venues, some are other random people.

So while we've obviously tried to get our work out there, we haven't really ever been willing to pay for advertising or referrals to get business. I think that if I did that, I'd lose the joy in just trying to be really good at photography. It's sort of the thrill of being chased as opposed to chasing... if that makes any sense.



Apr 03, 2014 at 03:22 PM
Robin Usagani
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p.1 #5 · p.1 #5 · How did you get to where you are today?


4 years ago we were blessed with triplet girls. My photos with my point and shoot sucked. Bought my first dslr (rebel t1i). I have never shot an slr prior to that. Just a typical dad with a camera. A year later started making money on the side for photography. I haven't really taken off but photography is about 33% of my income.




Apr 03, 2014 at 04:34 PM
Robin Usagani
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p.1 #6 · p.1 #6 · How did you get to where you are today?


Robin Usagani wrote:
4 years ago we were blessed with triplet girls. My photos with my point and shoot sucked. Bought my first dslr (rebel t1i). I have never shot an slr prior to that. Just a typical dad with a camera. A year later started making money on the side for photography. I haven't really taken off but photography is about 33% of my income.



Oh.. and I still remember my first post on FM like it was yesterday. Man.. you guys gave me a hard time
. It was a good lecture though. I am still here!



Apr 03, 2014 at 04:39 PM
SGallant
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p.1 #7 · p.1 #7 · How did you get to where you are today?


Robin Usagani wrote:
4 years ago we were blessed with triplet girls. My photos with my point and shoot sucked. Bought my first dslr (rebel t1i). I have never shot an slr prior to that. Just a typical dad with a camera. A year later started making money on the side for photography. I haven't really taken off but photography is about 33% of my income.


Nice Robin, 33% is a pretty nice chunk for a side business.

Your story made me think of another two points. I got my first film camera when I was 12 a shiny Pentax K1000! And I shot my first wedding at 14.



Apr 03, 2014 at 04:41 PM
Inku Yo
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p.1 #8 · p.1 #8 · How did you get to where you are today?


Got married in 2006. Our photos sucked. Thought I could do a bit better. Shot my first wedding in 2007.


Apr 03, 2014 at 05:03 PM
Robin Usagani
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p.1 #9 · p.1 #9 · How did you get to where you are today?


Inku Yo wrote:
Got married in 2006. Our photos sucked. Thought I could do a bit better. Shot my first wedding in 2007.
Wanna do whose wedding photos sucked more? The only way to beat ours if you didnt have photos of your wedding.



Apr 03, 2014 at 05:16 PM
ricardovaste
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p.1 #10 · p.1 #10 · How did you get to where you are today?


I will tick under:

"A series of unfortunate circumstances and events"



Apr 03, 2014 at 05:18 PM
 

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jmraso
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p.1 #11 · p.1 #11 · How did you get to where you are today?


I took the bus !!!

Seriously, I helped out a videographer taking the photos then she became my videographer when I booked my weddings, I joined FM back in 2004 (which I cant regret a bit) and up to today hoping to live on this for the rest of my working days if this country doesnt go to hell !!!



Apr 03, 2014 at 05:23 PM
jmraso
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p.1 #12 · p.1 #12 · How did you get to where you are today?


I hope they belong to the past !!!😊

ricardovaste wrote:
I will tick under:

"A series of unfortunate circumstances and events"




Apr 03, 2014 at 05:25 PM
dhp_sf
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p.1 #13 · p.1 #13 · How did you get to where you are today?


My progression is actually very similar to Sean's. And much of his revelations rang true to me as well as I went through the years. I figured out that in order for the business to work, good photos aren't everything, pricing isn't everything, a good website isn't everything... but everything is everything. This year I have more bookings than I have had in a single season to date at a much higher price. But I think I've elevated the quality as well in the past year or so quite a bit and hope to continue that upward momentum in honing the craft.

I'm pretty comfortable with where my business is heading but like Tony, I just want to make amazing photos now. So that's what I'll strive to do this year.... I want to be better than Tony. But I'll settle for half as good



Apr 03, 2014 at 05:30 PM
Prettym1k3
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p.1 #14 · p.1 #14 · How did you get to where you are today?


My first season was 2010. I had two weddings. $500 and $750. I didn't do the job I wished I did. But I was inexperienced. And my clients were happy.

That summer, a local photog asked me to come to a Mike Larson work shop. I met a few other photographers there, and one of them took me under her wing. I helped her grow her business, she taught me a lot, and 2012 was the last year I worked with her because financially it just didn't make sense anymore.

I've grown from 2 weddings in 2010 to 26 for 2014. It's been a crazy ride.

Ultimately, I think I've been graced with a lot of happenstance type scenarios, a couple of lucky bookings, some good advice from fellow photographers, and actually proving to my clients that I enjoy what I do and love it with a passion. Under promise and over-deliver has always been my motto. They're always blown away with my delivery times.

I am where I am due to the support of my wife, and understanding friends who "get it" that I'm not around as much as I used to be. And, what really started all of this "photography thing" was the drive to help my wife be a stay at home mom. I don't mind shooting 26 weddings and working a full time day job if it gets her time to stay at home with our son and next kid on the way.

Additionally, it's been vital for me to keep great relationships with fellow photographers. Making time to send a Facebook message, like some stuff, etc., has been key in getting referrals from other photographers when they're already booked or unavailable. In fact, thanks to FM, I refer weddings to Duy as often as I can. Why? Because I've met him, talked to him, he's a good guy, loves what he does, and that means something to me. He doesn't just go through the motions, and he's all about self improvement. And that referral to him will reflect good back on me. I think I've booked 5-6 weddings for 2014 on referrals from other photographers because, hey, they can only be in one place at once, and they trust me.

Lastly, I hug people before I leave. That's just my personality, but I find as much of the bridal party, the parents, etc. before I walk out the door and I hug them and thank them. It leaves them with a lasting impression. But I don't just do it to get more business. I do it because it really is an honor to be there on someone's wedding day. I firmly believe that. I hope it shows through.



Apr 03, 2014 at 06:02 PM
canerino
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p.1 #15 · p.1 #15 · How did you get to where you are today?


I took custody of my nephew when he was 5 months old (I was 25 years old). I just wanted to make sure he had a shoebox of photographs of his childhood like I have. I knew zero about photography/art as I grew up in a void of culture (Northeast Philadelphia). I had a Fuji Finepix 1.3MP camera that I used for a while. I slowly started to care what my photos looked like. I picked up a Canon 300D and 50 1.8.

I was obsessed with sharp eyes and blurred backgrounds. I took a shitload of portraits. My family began to grow and I realized that I wasnt really telling any story with my images. I really started to study a lot of Life photographers and Magnum photographers. I loved their BW images that were so rich with context and emotion.

I bought a 5d and 35L and Annie Leibovitz's "A Photographer's Life". That set me on a course to document my family for what it was rather than flatter them (much to the disappointment of my wife).

I started to shoot family sessions, but wasnt really satisfied (personally) with the direction that was heading. Many clients wanted "pretty portraits". But my heart was with my own family photojournalism. I developed a pretty good reputation on the People forum and started to develop relationships with some photographers. Among them were people who happened to be really good wedding photographers (ie, Evan Baines, Pat Furey, Sergio Mottola). We became "friends".

Pat Furey was looking for a second shooter and liked my family stuff. I had never shot a wedding up to that point. I ended up shooting and really liked it. Here is my first wedding I ever shot (2010): http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/topic/873433/0

From there I was fortunate enough to shoot my next two weddings with Evan Baines (http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/topic/908879/0) and Sergio Mottola (http://www.fredmiranda.com/forum/topic/914129/0).

I second shot a few more weddings and started to get a lot of inquiries about working as a primary. None of this was ever part of any plan. As a result, some priorities got misplaced. The positive side was that I seemed to find something I was pretty decent at and people were willing to pay me good money.

Fast forward a bit and I ended up being Tony Hoffer's associate photographer for the past two and a half years. I attribute all of this to a few things:

1) Have a distinct idea on what you want YOUR photos to look like.
2) Be cool. Being a dick for the sake of being a dick never helps anyone.
3) Be active on this forum. There is a ton of talent here and most people are very very very helpful. I was fortunate enough to work with some monster talent early on because I was active on FM. People took a pretty big leap of faith with me being as I've never shot a wedding before.
4) Help people when you can.
5) Be passionate. It cracks me up everytime I hear someone say that "passionate" is a bad word in the photography industry. Love what you do and it will love you back.

EDIT: I also wanted to add that I believe that any success I've had has come from organic growth. I see a lot of photographers who want success "RIGHT NOW" and look for quick fixes. This leads to "plagiarism" and the like. Relax, dont force anything and good things will happen...best of all, you'll feel really good about it because it'll be your own!

Edited on Apr 03, 2014 at 06:57 PM · View previous versions



Apr 03, 2014 at 06:14 PM
SGallant
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p.1 #16 · p.1 #16 · How did you get to where you are today?


Inku Yo wrote:
Got married in 2006. Our photos sucked. Thought I could do a bit better. Shot my first wedding in 2007.

Don't you use your photos as part of your presentation too?



Apr 03, 2014 at 06:30 PM
SGallant
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p.1 #17 · p.1 #17 · How did you get to where you are today?


This turned out to be a pretty cool thread, some awesome stories here!
Tony - I don't believe many can share your story. That's pretty cool.
ricardovaste - good to know
jmraso - same for you
Duy - nice to hear someone else is on the same path as me love your work dude, I still have a long way to go
Mike - it's great to hear you working so hard to provide for your family and seeing the success you are a result!
Chuck - great story and love your top 5 tips. As for the passionate I agree on both sides. I try my best to show I am passionate without saying it. Harder to do than say of course.

One thing all of these posts have reminded me I neglected to mention was FM. There is no way I would be where I am today without it. Every single second photographer that I have ever hired has come off of here. My first breaks as a second shooter came from here too. I actively talk to other members all the time, and we keep each other in check.



Apr 03, 2014 at 06:43 PM
Inku Yo
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p.1 #18 · p.1 #18 · How did you get to where you are today?


SGallant wrote:
Don't you use your photos as part of your presentation too?


It wasn't really part of my presentation. Our album was in our office, so if they asked, I'd show it to them. Hahaha. I got rid of my office last year because we moved 45 minutes away. Now I just show them my kick ass sample albums and we're good.



Apr 04, 2014 at 02:04 PM
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p.1 #19 · p.1 #19 · How did you get to where you are today?


Inku Yo wrote:
It wasn't really part of my presentation. Our album was in our office, so if they asked, I'd show it to them. Hahaha. I got rid of my office last year because we moved 45 minutes away. Now I just show them my kick ass sample albums and we're good.

Where are you located now? You were out in Secaucus before weren't you?



Apr 04, 2014 at 02:15 PM
NYstyles
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p.1 #20 · p.1 #20 · How did you get to where you are today?


I did makeup and styling for photographers. I wanted my Own pictures I could take when I want and how I want. I spun from there and spun fast, shooting just came so natural like I was doing it for years. I was ahead in the game already understanding lighting as a MUA. My photography just took over and left some of my makeup behind except my own shoots/referrals.

Wedding was just a natural course for me. I have a blast doing it.

I was going for full time self employed photographer but what it really comes down to for me is being self employed doing what I love. I made a choice last year to go part time with photography. 'Chasing' it like someone said above, I stopped fighting it, it was sucking the fun out. I do it for the love, to always improve, and to have fun. Im here for those that want Me, not just a 'wedding photographer'.

I have other things to fill the other half of the income to stay self employed that I love.



Apr 04, 2014 at 03:54 PM
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