Welcome new members. If you have been recently invited to join our forum, welcome.
Please take a few minutes to introduce yourself at The Meeting Room / General Discussions / Introduce yourself

General DiscussionsThe Business of Wedding Photography?

Open Forum - This is the official "any-topic" portion of the site. Stop in, say "hello", comment on photo or non-photo related topics, vent your frustrations or just chill out. The choice is yours.
Post Reply
User avatar
Ed Shapiro
Key Founding Member
Key Founding Member
Posts: 308
Joined: Sun Jan 11, 2015 4:29 am
Location: Ottawa, Ontario CANADA
Editing option: No, please do not edit my images
Contact:

The Business of Wedding Photography?

Post by Ed Shapiro »

The Business of Wedding Photography

Y' all may find this post to be rather “different” for a number of reasons but please bear with me and hopefully, by the end of the post, and with your feedback, some mutual benefit may develop.

Firstly, I did not know exactly where to post this article: The obvious choice would have been in the “Wedding Photography” board until I went there and realized that there is virtually no activity there since my last post several months ago. This indicated to me that there was very little or no interest in wedding photography, as yet, on the pM site thus my article would not attract any audience. Maybe, I pondered, my time would be better spent writing about something else- at least for the time being. Then I thought that if I did not post this at all; perhaps no interest in the subject would arise at all. Then I vacillated again thinking that if I posted this as a tutorial it might be interesting to a few members but at that point I already surmised that there was little or no interest in the subject so who would be interested in tips and techniques let alone the business aspect of the specialization. Am I conflicted- or what?! Then again; I thought that if someone was looking for a great new forum and stops in to have a peek at ours, the existence of a interesting wedding board may serve as an attraction to pros and aspiring pros who are indeed interested in that aspect of our craft and trade. After all, it is a time-honored viable and possibly lucrative business if approached in a highly professional manner. Regardless of certain changes in social and religious morays, folks are still getting married all the time- celebrating the event and wanting to have good pictures made of the big day!

So…before posting this I decided to have a look at the “competition”, do a time out to do my annual cruise through photo-forum land and see what other sites are doing about wedding photography. Well, that did not help me at all, and in fact, it quickly converted my confliction to frustration and then to pure shock! OK- I’ll calm down- yes, I know that there are some great, successful wedding pros out there doing exemplary work and earning good profits, however, there is a significant percentage of “photographers” you are doing substandard work and creating havoc in the industry. You may ask how I determined this rather sad state of affairs. Well- I went to about 10 sites and looked at some the questions, answers, images and critiques. There is lots of rough stuff in the marketplace that leads me to believe that there are many photographers dabbling in wedding photography who simply don’t know what they are doing, taking on work and messing up! Some of this stuff is downright scary. I also went to at least 20 links to websites and theses visits verified my diagnosis.

So again…more conflict and my question was/is; is there really a BUSINESS of wedding photography to aspire to or just a bunch of dabblers doing weddings, in a manner of speaking, giving each other accolades on photo forums, advertising on the Internet and frankly lousing up the industry in many direct and indirect ways. I have, in addition, noticed lots of posts and blogs where many photographers are complaining about difficulties with clients, technical problems and issues, poor profit margins and financial problems. Bad management and ignorance of time-honored business models is oftentimes at the root of many of theses issues. Lack of training, education, mentorship and experience is another damaging factor, that is, folks jumping the gun and plunging into business without many of the prerequisites.

Well- having done all of this complaining, believe it or not, I don’t intend this article to become a rant but rather a basis for input that will assist me in creating a beneficial series of articles to address all the aspects of wedding photography as an art and a business. As for myself, I don’t make a habit of blaming outside problematic sources for any downturn in my business. I don’t blame the “amateurs”, the advent of digital photography or low priced shooters if problems arise- I prefer to become introspective and look at my own work and marketing and sales strategies as a troubleshooting mechanism. What I hate to see is so many would be or of failing wedding photographers “shooting themselves in the foot” and thereby sabotaging their own potential or existing businesses and unfortunately causing a significant degree of “collateral damage to the industry”.

I would appreciate all of your inputs so that I can plan an effective series of articles and discussions about wedding photography.

Thanks for reading!

Ed

User avatar
Onslow
Key Founding Member
Key Founding Member
Posts: 1075
Joined: Tue Nov 25, 2014 10:42 am
Location: Whyalla, South Australia
Social Media Opt-In: Yes
Editing option: Yes, you can edit but ask me first
Contact:

Post by Onslow »

Ed, some great thoughts there about the problem you see. I really do think the days (at least in smaller towns) are over when it comes to specialised wedding photographers. I am in Australia so your experiences may be different. The last full time professional I can think of in my area was around thirty yrs ago. That is, a dedicated wedding photographer. They used to travel the Eyre Peninsula as well covering most weddings.
Nowadays, I see the same as you in your visits through the forums and online sites. It seems that personal development has taken a back seat in favour of "Likes". As an example, a "pro" in my area who has done a lot of weddings over the years, uses Picassa to edit, has them printed (if required, mormally they only get a cd) at the oz equivalent of walmart and has very little technical idea. Pop up flash when the camera thinks it's needed etc all contribute to poor quality images. As an example, they sent me an image 640 x 400 pixels to be printed at 19" x 12" if I recall correctly. I said it was too small, they insisted on the image being printed. I did so after saying I wouldn't be responsible for poor printing. They thought it was the best print they had seen!! I have seen at my local framers a lot of large and small prints from various "pros" come across the table for framing. Very, very few in my eye qualify as good photography or even competent photography.
The local wedding people bar a couple are people who want to pay off the camera and lens. A few do not have the correct business registration or business name. Australian requirements appear different to the US, however, each country has there own business requirements. These do not meet Australian requirements. Of course, these wedding specialists also specialise in newborns, child portraits, family portraits, christenings, engagements, birthdays, commercial and event photography as well as other specialities.
What to do? I have taught some of them in my local camera clubs 16hr Intro to Photography course. I specifically warn about turning pro and trying to make money straight after the course. However, if they decide to, what can I do? I still want to teach the beginners in our group even at the risk of some of them turning pro.
I guess when people fish for the cheapest price, they are influenced by the dollar first. That is the battle I see over here. The cheapest who offers everything on cd must be better because you are getting all of the images.
This is one reason I am not interested in weddings. The expectations now are so over the top in terms of effects and gimmicks. Solid photography to last a lifetime isn't seen anymore as a thing to treasure.

User avatar
Ed Shapiro
Key Founding Member
Key Founding Member
Posts: 308
Joined: Sun Jan 11, 2015 4:29 am
Location: Ottawa, Ontario CANADA
Editing option: No, please do not edit my images
Contact:

Post by Ed Shapiro »

Onslow! Thanks for your response.

The situation you describe about wedding photography in your geographic location is common to some extent, to many other cities, towns and countries all over the globe. There are infinite variations of theses attitudes and buying habits depending on cultural elements, buying habits, ethnicities, and socioeconomic conditions and even “keeping up with the Joneses” kinda notions. When I lived and worked in my native New York City many of theses factors varied substantially from one neighborhood to another- perhaps only a few city blocks apart. Although big cities are supposed to be “melting pots” when it comes to culture, religion and family concepts and relationships, in actuality, many of theses cities can be a conglomeration of “ghettos” each with their own scenarios in the area of weddings. Some people of modest means may put on extravaganza-like weddings with all the trimmings and the best available photography because of ethnic and social traditions- they save up the money and when wedding time arrives they are well prepared. Some very well-to-do folks with copious amounts of disposable income may shy away from lavish weddings because those are not in their societal group, however some “society” wedding are more like corporate mergers and are held in ultra-posh venues with many hundreds of invited VIP guests. In many of those affairs, believe it or not, the photography is not a priority and may be considered a necessary evil! One never knows what can be expected unless they have the experience with many of theses kinds of weddings.

In many communities around the world; weddings are still a part of religious and cultural tenets and traditions. Nowadays, perhaps we see more civil marriages and common-law relationships, however, wedding celebrations are still ongoing, very important to the newlyweds and photography of the event remains part and parcel of the “wedding day”! So…there is still hope! Wedding photography, in some places, may be on the skids but weddings themselves are still happening and in some quarters they are going on in lavish, posh and extravagant ways. Perhaps it is time for more of us to acquire a fair market share of the potential business. Conceivably it is time for all of us to ramp up our games, offer better service and quality, promote new ideas or revive some of the classic ones and improve the marketplace in our own locations by evoking the time-honored concepts of a “better mouse trap” and competitiveness.

There was a time in my career when I was on the “teaching circuit” here in Canada. I presented many workshop and seminars for pay and some for earning services credits for my master’s degree endeavors. I always enjoyed teaching because one also constantly learns when teaching and must always rise to the occasions of answering challenging questions which in turn requires constant keeping up with trends and technologies. This was all good, however, there was always one frustration in convincing folks to try out new ideas or resurrect some of the classical concepts. Oftentimes, I would conduct a 5-day seminar on weddings and portraiture and managed to maintain everyone’s attention and enthusiasm over such a long stretch. It ain’t easy- let me tell y' all. You have to be a teacher, evangelist preacher, trainer, drill instructor, and entertainer, stand up comedian and philosophers all rolled up on one and nonetheless manage to address the curriculum as promised. When everything during the session is “flying” and everyone is really rocking ‘n’ rolling it is a very rewarding and satisfying for the teacher. I am not an egocentric kinda geezer but when everyone is in the “groove” it’s gotta be fun!

So…you may ask; where’s the frustration?! OK- so…comes the lat day of the program and we are doing the final Q&A session and getting folks’ reaction to the entire program. Well- many people are still “pumped” and trying to get back home ASAP and begin applying their new ideas, technical concepts, promotional ideas and up-to-the-minute tips and tricks. There is, however, always a good percentage of the participants that proclaim that they never experienced a better time at a seminar, my ideas are the greatest since the advent of sliced white bread and I am the best teacher since Socrates, Plato or at least the 5th grade teacher, Ms. Oglethorpe, who was a real “looker” and wore tight sweaters BUT- everything I taught them would not work in THEIR community with THEIR clients! Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!
I never told anyone to go home and burn down their studios or abruptly change all of their policies, prices and offerings! Some folks won’t even try a few transitional measures. Well- now that I am older and wiser and learn to refrain from cussing and hollering and engaging in “teaching rage” I just present 3 simple questions to the naysayers: “Do you want to be a pacesetter and an innovator or a follower in you community and profession”? Which role do you think will be more successful in you professional public image? Which image will bring you more business and eventual profits? At that point I wish them well and encourage them to go forth and prosper!

Funny thing- but it ain’t really all that funny, is that the ones who are not willing to change or progress are the ones who continually complain about the sorry state of the industry and their own business.

Yes! we all live in different places and different people but I think when it comes to bride’s and wedding celebrations there is some universality that can be summed up in what one of my best teachers told me about wedding photography. His name was Bill Stockwell and he was one of the movers and shakers that just about revolutionized wedding photography back in the late 1960s. He was a very poetic guy! He philosophized that “the insensitive and stolid wedding gunners stomps through the lovely wedding garden crushing the beautiful flowers and only picking up the stones and the weeds”! “When you present the bride with a bunch of weeds she will toss them away but when you present her with a lovely bouquet of fragrant and delicate flowers, she will buy an elegant vase in which to keep them and before they die she will press them in a book and preserve them forever”! OK- Too mushy- saccharin- corny? Maybe- but once you get past the frills there is lots of wisdom to behold!

So…whatdoya think people! Feedback please!

Thanks for reading. Ed

Post Reply

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 1 guest