A Wedding Photographer’s Search for a Wedding Photographer – Part Four

Today is the 4th instalment of Libby Clark’s bride to be diary series. In the first 3 parts of this series we’ve discussed budgets and how hard it is to find a photographer using Google (there is just so much to choose from and so many sites to wade through). Throughout this series though Libby is learning from her own search exactly what her own photography business needs and all of this she is sharing with you.

so, enjoy part 4 of A Wedding Photographers Search for a Wedding Photographer. Over to you Libby…


Welcome back for another week. I hope you’re getting something from these posts because I’m learning so so much!

Last week looked at what I want and how I was looking for it. I focused a fair bit on homepages and how that is your place to shine. 50 milliseconds, remember?!

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This week I thought I’d leave the world of Google behind and try some other methods. I feel like I’ve struck gold.

Part Four– Where Else Can I Look?

To be honest, Google was overwhelming me quite a bit. I was so fed up of just clicking result after result and using slightly different search terms for a different list to click through. Obviously I’m quite a visual person so I wanted to see work before I visited the website. It’s all about speed! I wanted lots of pictures in front of me I could choose from and go from there, otherwise I was at risk of losing my patience and losing interest.

At first I thought about Facebook. I’ve seen people use this many a time, mostly through posts in wedding groups:

“Can anyone recommend a good wedding photographer who’s cheap?”

Eurgh, I HATE those posts! You just get comment after comment of pretty much every photographer each person knows. Like I said last week, photography is subjective so you can’t expect to find exactly what you’re looking for with a post like this. Unless you’re lucky.

I thought about going through the various photographer’s pages I’ve “liked” over the years but with over 1,200 pages in my liked section it seems just as daunting as Google. Don’t discount Facebook completely though. More on that in a minute.

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The most visual social tool I thought of was Pinterest. How many times as photographers have you visited Pinterest for inspiration? There is so much beauty out there that makes my jaw drop and Pinterest has the majority of it sitting there waiting to be pinned.

So off I went. Hello Pinterest, search “wedding photography Gloucestershire”.

OMG OMG OMG OMG… Yes really. Look at all the gorgeous photos!!

Whilst I still had a lot of results I was feeling much more confident. As long as the photographer’s name was mentioned and I liked what I saw, it was pinned. I decided that if I saw more than a few of one photographers work and pinned it, I would check them out a bit further. I only pinned 33 photos before I realised I was going to struggle to narrow them down so I had to stop myself.

An important part of this process for me if to give myself some thinking time. Time where I’m not looking for wedding photographers so that I can come back with a fresh mind. Indeed that’s what I did and whilst I still loved some of the work it was removed from the list because it wasn’t quite right for me.

The next night I began making my way through the list and looking at websites. I think I narrowed it down to 5 at the time. The next part of my search involved looking into these 5 a little more. I moved away from Pinterest for this and on to Facebook. I found myself looking for some interesting things I hadn’t expected. How often do they post? When did they last post? How many wedding photographs are on their page?

If I go to my Facebook page and ask the same questions the answers are as follows; Rarely, October last year, quite a few but they vary hugely in quality.

Ouch, so not only do I need to redo my website. I also need to seriously overhaul my Facebook page and get posting! I remember a friend setting up a Facebook schedule every day with different kinds of posts. Links, images and text. It worked brilliantly for her and the enagement on her page sky rocketed. As soon as she stopped so did the engagement.

Use social media, it works!

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I think I’ve found my main search tool. I wondered if I’m the only person who will find their photographer via Pinterest or if this is quite a popular tool? I’ll expand on this more next week but this week’s lesson was this:

Most friends I asked did not use Google as their main search tool. For some reason this surprised me!

When I put the question out to friends I started to get quite a mixture of answers and I wanted to ask more questions, so I’ve decided to do a little market research and do a questionnaire. I’ll let you know the outcome soon.

Next week – The enquiry stage

 


About the Author: Libby Clark

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Libby is based in Swindon, UK and has been shooting weddings for five years. Find out more about Libby over at www.libbyclarkphotography.co.uk

Be sure to join the discussion over in the buzzing RSP community and subscribe to Ready Steady Pro right here to receive the next part of this series direct to your mailbox or to be notified when new parts are available for reading!

 

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A Wedding Photographer’s Search for a Wedding Photographer – Part Three

We’re back this week the 3rd installment of Guest Blogger Libby Clark’s diary series, opening the pages on her own search for a wedding photographer. We’ve spoken about the budget, we’ve touched on how difficult it can be to find exactly what you’re looking for in a saturated market and even how with tools such as Google we’re still presented with far too much choice! Today however Libby dives further into her search and details exactly what she is looking for and what she is doing to find it. So, please do enjoy part 3 of A Wedding Photographer’s Search for a Wedding Photographer, by Libby Clark…


Hi all,

Last week’s post certainly provoked some discussion and food for thought in the Ready Steady Pro Facebook group. I talked about the search terms I found myself using, mostly broad searches that weren’t getting me anywhere. So I had to do some more in depth searches.

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Part Three – What Do I Want and How Do I Find It?

This week was all about using keywords and different search methods. I decided the best thing to do would be to write down what style we were looking for. As a photographer this is where I knew I was going to struggle. We all have our own specific style and we wouldn’t use it if we didn’t like it. So what I’m looking for is someone who photographs the way that I do and better, but I have that budget of £1,800 to keep in mind. I might be able to sneak that up to £2,000… maybe.

Our theme/style for the day itself is very rural, involves cider, lots of natural colours, flat caps and flowers. In my head I see lots of light, soft images of the blushing bride (that’s me!) looking whimsically into her new husbands eyes with the sunlight behind them. Soft and warm colours… *sigh*. Sorry I went into a daydream of prettiness there!

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So how do you sum that up into keywords? I guess I can add vintage to the list so I search “Wedding Photographer Vintage Style Gloucestershire”.

Now that’s a bit better. The first thing I see is a website that lists local photographers and I notice a few more keywords in their first paragraph; reportage, documentary style, posed photographs. This also reminds me of fine art, classic, unique, street and a few more keywords I can add to the list. I just need to narrow down which.

When I shoot I like to do so in a documentary style but the couple photos are the perfect opportunity to be a bit more creative with lights and angles. Without going into another daydream we want someone to capture the true essence of the day so we’re definitely looking for documentary style with a fine art twist. That might be hard. Do people even do that? I do so I hope others do!

Ok, good. I have some more keywords:

“Wedding photographer vintage style gloucestershire documentary fine art”

Bit of a mouthful I must admit but hurrah! I have far fewer results and I go ahead and click on one. So far, so good. For the most part I like what I see on the home page slideshow even though I’m a little frustrated it’s not loading very quickly. I’m not very keen on the second photo I see though. The guy has a slightly awkward look on his face and doesn’t look comfortable. Stuart hates having his photo taken and will only let me do it so I’m really aware I need to find someone he can be comfortable with and relax.

I did some assistant and second shooting work last year in return for some mentoring and one of the things I was told was to only showcase the best of the best. Nothing mediocre.

I can see why now, maybe it’s my overly critical eye but I’ve noticed this one error and I’m about to discount the photographer because of it! I think about the fact I’ve done exactly the same thing and tell myself not to judge so quickly and carry on looking.

This is the next lesson:

People can make decisions in 50 milliseconds. You have 50 milliseconds to make people go WOW and encourage them to keep looking.

I think if I’d seen the second photo first I wouldn’t have gone much further but thankfully the first photo caught my eye so I’m going to look past the second photo. The next few won’t load properly. I’m getting a bit annoyed at this point but when they do eventually load I do rather like them. The photos fit our style with rural, gorgeous backlit couples. Unfortunately one photo is so crowded with confetti I can’t see the couple. But I’ll keep looking, I’ll just remember to give the guests small handfuls of petals rather than a full box! I then notice that this photographer has been featured on one of my favourite wedding blogs and was a regional finalist for a Wedding Industry Award. I’m not fussed they didn’t win it but I feel a bit more confident about them now.

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You might have noticed at this point I’ve only looked at the home page. I’ve not even looked at the portfolio so the next lesson I’ve learnt is this.

Your home page is THE page. I’ve always used mine as a bit of an introduction to the rest of my website which is clearly the wrong thing to be doing. This is what your clients are going to base the majority of their decision on.

I’ve now spent a few minutes here and I’m still liking what I see enough. I suddenly remember the “bounce rate” I’ve seen on Google Analytics telling me how much time people are spending on each page before they leave. I’m lucky if I get a full 10 seconds on my home page! I’ve given this photographer at least 5 minutes of my time so far. I finally scroll down past the slideshow and see a short paragraph. I wasn’t going to read it but as it’s above the links for the other pages I’m going to. Ooh, they describe their style as “fine art mixed with documentary”! I’m a little excited now so I click through to the gallery.

After a few minutes of looking I decide this photographer, as good as they are, doesn’t quite fit my style. I think I want more of a fine art approach than I initially realised. But the point is I took my time, I didn’t go to the home page and move away 50 milliseconds later. The website was really easy to follow and I wasn’t wondering where I had to go to find things.

Next week… Where Else Can I Look?


About the Author: Libby Clark

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Libby is based in Swindon, UK and has been shooting weddings for five years. Find out more about Libby over at www.libbyclarkphotography.co.uk

Be sure to join the discussion over in the buzzing RSP community and subscribe to Ready Steady Pro right here to receive part two of this series direct to your mailbox or to be notified when part two is available for reading!

A Wedding Photographer’s Search for a Wedding Photographer – Part Two

This week we continue our series with Ready Steady Pro Community Member and guest blogger Libby Clark. Libby has kindly agreed to open her diary and provide us with an insight in to her own search for a wedding photographer. Being a wedding photographer herself this series will offer us, the readers, an idea of the thinking process that our clients go through when looking for that one, all-important vendor: their wedding photographer.

Part One of the series was very well received, where Libby discusses budgets and lessons that can be weaned from her search to benefit her own business, so without further delay here’s the second installment:


Hi all,

Thanks for coming back to read part two! Apparently I’m not as bad with words as I thought so here is part two:

Props

Last week I discussed “The Budget”. It opened my eyes as to how wrong my own pricing structure probably is! As much as we like to think all couples have an endless amount of money to spend on their wedding I’ve realised they often don’t – because I’m one of them. So as I mentioned last week my own wedding photographer budget has been set at £1,800. With that established it was time to start looking for a photographer, properly.

The next part of my journey has so far proved equally interesting (and challenging!)

Part Two – Where Do I Start?

Last week I mentioned that I’ve been guilty of using keywords that I just expect my website to be found when used. I don’t know why because having recently searched “wedding photographer Swindon” I’m ashamed to say Waitrose had a result before I did! In fact I gave looking for my own website after looking through 22 pages of the search results.  So this week I learnt why SEO and keywords are so important. My search for a photographer started as it did probably do for almost all couples:

  1. Open Google…
  2. Search “Wedding Photographer”

Why did I do that? I genuinely didn’t know what else to type and where to start my search! Using Google is how I’d hope my couples would find me, so why wouldn’t I find a photographer this way?

There were pages upon pages of photographers listed in the search results that all featured because of just two key words: ‘Wedding Photographer’. As it so happens the first few results are photographers I know. They get regular bookings and do this full time (Most likely because they’re at the top of Google!) But I don’t feel relieved I have a lovely list to choose from, I feel somewhat overwhelmed. There are so many?! Where do I start?!

Ok, let’s try again. Let’s narrow things down:

  1. Open Google…
  2. Search “Wedding Photographer South West”

 

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The results aren’t much better really, I still have a massive list to go through but there are more in my area of the country now. Kind of.

I live in Wiltshire but we’re getting married in Gloucestershire. To those of us who live here we are South Westerners. To the rest of the UK however we somehow fall into ‘the bit between the South West and The Midlands’ and suddenly I’m thinking about the fact that if I find and love a photographer in the deepest depths of Cornwall we’re going to have to pay for their travel and accommodation. (Quite rightly though; I don’t expect them to travel all that way for nothing.)

That’s where I’ve probably got one up on those couples planning who don’t have a clue about the industry as my expectations are probably a little more in line with the accepted norm. This was my next lesson as a photographer:

It’s really appreciated if you make it clear what areas you cover at no extra charge and, if you do charge for travel where that starts. If you are based in Cornwall I doubt you’d be happy to travel up to Cumbria at no extra cost!

By now I’ve been mindlessly clicking on random photographer’s websites for a couple of hours but no one is really doing it for me. I’m going to need a rethink. I know I’ve fallen into the trap that I expect all couples do: search terms that cover far too much for their brains to consume. Time to sit down and think about what we want and use keywords.

Next week… What Do I Want and How Do I Find It?


About the Author: Libby Clark

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Libby is based in Swindon, UK and has been shooting weddings for five years. Find out more about Libby over at www.libbyclarkphotography.co.uk

Be sure to join the discussion over in the buzzing RSP community and subscribe to Ready Steady Pro right here to receive part two of this series direct to your mailbox or to be notified when part two is available for reading!

A Wedding Photographer’s Search for a Wedding Photographer – Part One

Over in the Facebook Community for Ready Steady Pro community member Libby Clark mentioned just how hard it is, as a wedding photographer, to find a wedding photographer! Fellow member and contributor to this blog, James Hepworth struck upon a great idea – Let’s invite Libby to share something of a diary with the rest of us: ‘A Wedding Photographer’s Search for a Wedding Photographer’. So, here today I’m peased to share with you Part One of Libby’s diary-type series on her search for a wedding photographer and wedding planning.

All wedding photographers, especially those who aren’t yet married themselves, should really have a read of this. It’s a great insight in to the mind of a bride (who just so happens to be a wedding photographer too!)

Over to you Libby…


Thanks Michael for the introduction. As you now know I’m Libby and I’m very much a part time Wedding Photographer. I work full time in a job I love so I know I don’t put as much effort into my business as I should. Especially when it comes to marketing and my website. But that’s another story for another time!

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You might have guessed from the title; I’m getting married! I’ve been toying with the idea of writing a blog about planning my own wedding for a few weeks, so when James suggested it, and Michael asked me to write one about my own search for a wedding photographer I jumped at the opportunity.

The aim of this diary style blog is for the professional photographers out there to get the other halves’ side of what’s important in marketing. Over the years I’ve been guilty of designing websites with keywords and creating designs that I assume will be ok. I know what I want people to search for in Google to find me so why wouldn’t they? I like my design so why wouldn’t anyone else?

So let me take you on my journey… of search terms and things that have struck me whilst I’m looking for my own perfect Wedding Photographer. It’s not quite going as I expected.

Part One – The Budget

As I work in the wedding industry, I think I always knew I would find planning my own wedding hard. I’ve been to so many weddings and seen so many beautiful things my head is somewhat bursting (and so are my Pinterest boards). Friends have always said “I bet you can’t wait to plan your wedding, especially the photography”. Actually the photography is the bit I’m dreading the most! There was no way I was going to rush into a decision but I also knew I couldn’t leave it too long.

After several weeks of looking, we have found the perfect venue so we’re booking it! We have a date, a church and thankfully Stuart (my fiancé) and I both have the same idea when it comes to themes and styles. I’m one of those super organized people who likes to have everything written down. And lists, oh how I love a good list!

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So now that the venue is chosen, I need to find a photographer. You’d think that being one myself, setting the budget for this part would be easy.

Oh my days it isn’t! Not even a little bit!

Our budget for the whole day is just over £20,000 which is about average for a wedding these days. Of course I appreciate that a good photographer will charge what they’re worth and if I could have my way I’d probably budget about £3,000 towards it. Sadly both Stuart and our bank account don’t agree with this. So, after a couple of arguments, a genuine suggestion that we just give all the guests disposable cameras (yes, really), and eventually the acceptance that there was no way I was going to back down we agreed on a budget of £1,800.

This is where my first point of realisation came in… I charge £700 for a full day of wedding photography including a disc of edited images, an online password protected gallery, a photo book and an engagement shoot. I know I’m undercharging and a lot of my pricing decisions came down to confidence. However, I was discounting photographers who charge under £1,000 for a full day as probably being inexperienced and not confident in their work.

Now maybe that’s not a fair analysis, but I really don’t want to be one of those people who regrets not spending enough on their photographer. Equally I recognise a good photographer when I see one, and a bad one, so of course I won’t be going on pricing alone. It does make you think though, if everyone in my target market has a budget of £1,800 for a photographer, are they even going to look at the cheaper ones? If I’m anything to go by, possibly not.

It’s only been a few days and I’ve already realised my pricing is quite possibly wrong for my target market! I think I’ll be sitting down and starting my pricing structure over.

Next week – Where Do I Start?


About the Author: Libby Clark

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Libby is based in Swindon, UK and has been shooting weddings for five years. Find out more about Libby over at www.libbyclarkphotography.co.uk

Be sure to join the discussion over in the buzzing RSP community and subscribe to Ready Steady Pro right here to receive part two of this series direct to your mailbox or to be notified when part two is available for reading!

Why is Wedding Photography so Expensive?

This post was originally share over on Michael Rammell’s blog at www.RammellPhotography.com/blog


Writing a blog about the cost of wedding photography may seem controversial. Typically, my blog is a positive place where people can come and see how the most recent wedding shoot went, or, take a look at what else I’ve been up to. But just recently I started to think about pricing. I know my prices are low (very low) and they should be higher If I ever plan to do what I love full time. The thing is, I don’t compare myself to any other photographer so I don’t want to set my prices based on what the competition is priced at – I just try to strike a balance between what I think my images are worth and what I think a client will pay.

I figured the only way for me to know if my prices were right was to work out the numbers. So I started to do some research into the costs of wedding photography. I already knew that the average cost of a wedding photographer has been around £1,300 – £1,450 in the past few years, but I wanted to know what brides and grooms thought of prices. It’s one thing for me to value my work, but what value do brides and grooms put on the memories of their weddings? I set out by first recalling the situation I was in when I got married a few years back…

I Didn’t Hire A Photographer At My Own Wedding

You may think as a wedding photographer that I will have some pretty amazing photographs of my own wedding day, right? Surely I pulled in a favour with a wedding photographer friend of mine? You may even say that because I knew what it was like to be behind the camera – my wedding day pictures should be brilliant – as I would know what to do when in front of the camera…?

It breaks my heart to say it, but that is not the case.

My wife and I got married before I really found photography and before I decided I wanted to be a wedding photographer myself. I was the person on the wedding forums looking for a wedding photographer that would cost me £200 and not a penny more. At the time I could not understand why someone thought they could get away with quoting me £2,000?! After all it was just a day of pointing and shooting and an album I wanted – we were even getting married locally and I could buy an album off the internet for £40! I could take some pretty brilliant pictures with a point and shoot and even handed my brother my Sony Micro four thirds camera for the day (thinking that by having good camera in his hands we would end up with at least a few album-worthy images.

On one forum I saw what I thought was a genius Idea to save money on your wedding! One bride had suggested that she was going to purchase some disposable cameras and put them on each table and ask her guests to take photos. The guests would then leave the cameras behind, or, take them and get them developed and send copies of the photographs back to her and her husband. If truth be told, even now the idea sounds somewhat romantic. I remember selling the idea to my wife: “It’ll be our wedding day, seen through the eyes of our closest friends and family” I said.

We didn’t have a large wedding, just a few friends and our close family. Unfortunately, no-one knew how to take a picture the way I wanted them to. Sure, some were exposed properly and I’ve got my eyes open in a few, but they are not images I’m proud to show off. They’re not images that take me back to the moment when I see them. They have no ‘Wow’ factor. I wish now that I’d spent some money and hired someone who knew what they were doing. I’d have spent that £2,000 in a heartbeat if I knew what I know now.

I didn’t put enough value on my wedding photographs.

I wish I had memories like these:

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Oh here we go!

Now, You may read this and think “Oh here we go, he’s just scaremongering and trying to get us to spend all our budget on him”…I promise you that is not my aim. I’m not trying to convince you to hire me for your wedding. If you read this and at the end you understand the true value of a wedding photographer and you then hire someone else; I will still be overjoyed that all I achieved was to encourage you to hire a professional to capture your wedding day for you.

Quite simply – I don’t want you to be able to relate to my story. I don’t want you to email me in six months time and say “You were right!”. I don’t want my story to be your story.

So, what did i find from my research?

Go to Google and type ‘Why is wedding photography so expensive?‘. You are likely to notice two things:

  1. Firstly, you only have to type the words ‘Why is wedding photography…‘ before Google completes the question for you by conveniently adding ‘…so expensive?‘.
  2. And secondly; there are no shortage of photographers scrambling to explain the costs of wedding photography in a bid to tackle the belief that wedding photography is expensive.

Any good wedding photographer will know what a wedding costs them to photograph. They will know how much they have left after their fixed-cost outgoings. They should even know what a wedding will end up paying them as an hourly rate, (which I will come to later). So it doesn’t phase many wedding photographers to say “That’ll be £2,000“, but it still surprises most couples.

It makes me feel very much like there is a battle going on between couples and photographers, just like the battle I was having when I got married. And I think I know why…

It’s just one day of shooting…right?!

Searching through blogs and forums I’ve found there to be one very common misconception: That shooting a wedding is a one-day deal where we turn up, press a button and then go home. There is one fantastic ‘rant’ from an american bride mentioned on Kristen Booth’s blog where she says “I mean the “average” persons salary for 1 freaking month is somewhere around 3 grand. (Thats making 19$ an hour) So you’re going to take someones WHOLE MONTH paycheck for one flippen day of photos? Just because you CAN!!??????“. If you click the link you’ll see that Kristen has answered this rant in her own, very unique way.

But this ‘Craiglist Bride’ as Kristen calls her, had it all wrong. I worked out that I spend at least 38 hours producing wedding photographs when I shoot my entry level package: 10 hours on the wedding day. 22 hours editing the images. 2 hours of travelling. 2 hours of talking and discussions with my clients over the course of the build up to the wedding. If a client chooses a more premium package from my price list I’ll end up working even more hours.

What’s my point?

Today I want to answer this question slightly differently to most: I want to demystify the cost of wedding photography and lay the costs on the table and break it all down so that you can see that after the confetti has been cleared away, the average wedding photographer is likely take home less than most people do from the average ‘day job’.

Let’s look at the numbers

So, when I decided to start shooting weddings I thought I knew exactly how I was going to separate myself from the competition: I would be the amazing photographer charging crazy low rates. I would end up being super busy and would rake it in by simply shooting so many weddings. The quantity would make up for the low price, I thought. This is how my first 5 weddings went:

(Please note from this point on i am representing my figures at a very basic level)

  1. Wedding #1 was a favour to a friend. If they hadn’t hired me, they wouldn’t have hired anyone. I charged: £0
  2. Wedding #2 was a result of word of mouth from the first wedding. I couldn’t charge much more as I did their friends wedding for free! I charged £250
  3. Wedding #3 was a booking through Facebook. I was getting more confident so my prices went up: I charged £300
  4. Wedding #4 was another referral from the 1st and 2nd weddings so they wanted the same service and price. I charged £250 again
  5. Wedding #5 was for a colleague at work. I actually said I would do their wedding for free. They’re friends of my wife and I and I wanted to do it as a sort of wedding present. They insisted on paying though and I made £250

Before I go on I will just say for the record that I am very proud of my first few weddings. I had a blast doing them, my clients are happy with their images and I don’t regret ever entering the photography industry and I certainly don’t regret charging those low prices. I love this job and I hope I can continue to enjoy it for the rest of my life.

So, total up my first few weddings and you’ll notice a grand total of £1050. Not bad eh! Oh – I had to pay tax on that too, so %20 goes to Mr Taxman leaving me with a figure of £840 turnover. Still not bad eh?! (note ‘turnover’ – not profit)

lace my palm with silver

So, I had made some money. From 5 weddings (with 1 being free) I had made £840. At the time I was very pleased,  but then I did some math to figure out what my camera gear had cost me:

  • Canon 7d:£850
  • 70-200 f2.8 L IS USM II: £1600
  • 50mm f1.8 £100
  • Spare batteries & battery grip for 7d £300
  • Canon 580EXII Speedlight (flash) £550
  • My Camera bag was £70
  • x4 Compact Flash Cards were £200
  • Multiple SD Cards were around £150
  • My Tripod was £150
  • Batteries and battery conditioner for flash: £135
  • There were other things too such as lens cleaning equipment, memory card readers and more that all amounted to something like £100
  • I hired a Canon 24-70mm L USM for two of the weddings at £100 per rental; £200

Again, some quick math shows my camera gear alone at the time of my 5th wedding had cost me£4,905. That’s around half the value of the gear a seasoned professional would carry with them!

There’s more to take into account though. I’d then need to edit those images:

  • A new laptop powerful enough to run Adobe Photoshop and LightRoom: £600
  • Adobe Lightroom: £120
  • Monitor for editing: £350
  • CD’s to burn client discs £20
  • Network Storage so that I don’t lose client images: £200

That takes my post editing costs to: £1290. Add this to the camera gear and my total outlay to shoot weddings now stood at: £6,195

There is still more to be accounted for:

  • New suit & Shoes: £250
  • Travel costs (Diesel) – I’ve worked out my mileage and to date I’ve travelled over 200 miles for weddings: £20
  • Electricity when charging batteries and working editing and for my storage device that is always turned on. I would wager a guess at these being £100 over the course of those 5 weddings.
  • Website & domain: £180
  • Business cards: £30

These other additional costs amount to some  £580. Added once more to the previous totals and I then realised my total outlay amounted to: £6,775 to shoot weddings. My £840 turnover now seems pretty small. After my 5th wedding I needed to go on and make a further £5,935 in order to break even on my investment. Only then would any money I make be considered profit!

I also realised at this point that I still hadn’t insured my equipment, nor had I taken out the public liability insurance that most venues require before allowing you to work on their premises…but I couldn’t afford those at that point.

Breaking even on my investment – how long will it take me to do that?

It was when I put these figures into a spreadsheet for the first time It dawned on me: Being a wedding photographer is expensive! But I now wanted to figure out how long it would take me to break even. There was no way of me determining what my turnover for the next year would be. I couldn’t predict bookings. So, I started to look at my pricing and came up with some models & projections.

(It gets quite ‘numbery’ here, but please read on)

From the first 5 weddings I’d been averaging £250 per wedding. After tax I would be left with £200 per wedding. That means I would need to shoot 28 weddings at that rate to break even on my current investment. I figured if I had a good year and shot 10 weddings, I’d still have another 18 to go. At that rate It would take me 3 years to break even, at which point the cameras would need replacing, the laptop would need renewing and I’d be starting all over again…I worked out that If I am making £200 per wedding and working nearly 40 hours per wedding I was paying myself £5.71 per hour…the UK minimum wage is £6.19 (as of 2012).

Another way of looking at that is that if I were going to repay my remaining investment of £5,935 at that rate, I would need to work 1,120 hours…

So lets assume I worked full time in an office and took home the £5.71 per hour. If I worked 40 hours in an office every single week earning that hourly rate I would take home an annual wage of £10,923.20. That amount is simply not enough to pay my bills and that is based on working 35 hours every week – with weddings You can only shoot so many in one year!

I think from the above alone it’s clear to see that charging these low rates was not a sustainable business model. It just would never work. It wasn’t even worth me doing it as I had a ‘day job’ too. I’d be working around 80 hours a week whenever I shot a wedding!

Okay, that’s enough number crunching for one minute – there’s more to it that money and time…

So, as it stood I’d have to work over 1100 hours in addition to my day job for less than minimum wage. But there is far more to it than cash and time. Making a photograph is an art and a craft. If everyone could do it then these prices would be the market rate – why would you need to go and find someone when any uncle or cousin with a camera could do it for you? The fact is not everyone can do this. Sure, new digital cameras can take some of the technicality out of taking an image – but knowing how to instinctively use a camera, being able to see a moment as it’s about to happen, and then capturing it perfectly – that’s worth something too.

You’re not just investing in someone with a nice camera, a smart suite and a cool website, you’re investing in someone who knows what they’re doing, someone prepared and experienced. You’re guaranteeing yourself that you will get the photographs that will last you a lifetime.

What am i saying?

My point here is that if you’re looking for the £200 photographer, or if you’re employing your friend / cousin / uncle because they take ‘nice pictures’ you’re simply not placing enough value of your own wedding. I’m not suggesting you have to pay a lot of money, in fact there are some expensive photographers out there who are not worth what they charge, I am simply urging you to employ a professional. I’m not looking to appear as a hero when I say this, but this is part of the reason why my basic price is one-third of of the market average: I understand that not everyone has £1,400 for a wedding photographer, I certainly didn’t at the time when I was getting married.

What I am saying is don’t measure the importance or value of your wedding by your budget, or what it’s costing you.

If you can afford £1,400 or more on a wedding photographer you are very lucky. My advice to you is pay them that money, get them on board and ensure that they are involved in every step of your wedding day from start to finish. Make sure that your £1,400 investment is the best it can be by allowing and enabling your photographer to do their job.

I was stressing about costs in the build up to my wedding – worrying that what my wife and I had arranged wasn’t going to be magical enough for her, that it wasn’t the wedding she had dreamed of her entire life. She knew I was concerned and said to me: “In my culture it is said that ‘the less extravagant the wedding, the more blessed the marriage will be’. I want our marriage to blessed” – the morale here is that the value should be placed on the wedding itself and how much it means to each person. The wedding should not valued in any monetary sense.

Whilst this is a beautiful sentiment and one with which I completely agree – It still doesn’t mean that my wife and I have a single image as beautiful as our wedding day and that breaks my heart.

Conclusion

I urge you when planning your wedding to take photography into account right from the start and hire a professional. I would encourage you to spend a good amount of time searching for a photographer who both fits your budget and has portfolio that takes your breath away.

Remember, a good wedding photographer will also be a wedding planner, a friend and a guest on your big day. They will help you to work out timings for your wedding breakfast, they’ll tell you that when you’re having your hair done – be sure to wear a button up top so you don’t ruin two hours worth of curling and hair-spraying. A good photographer will tell you to dry the stems of your bouquet so as to not wet your dress, but most of all you’ll learn to trust them so you can relax safe in the knowledge that this person will be capturing the special moments of your big day so that you have memories you will be able to cherish for the rest of time. A good photographer will be the best investment on your wedding day.

If you stumbled across this post as a result of looking for cheap wedding photographers, I sincerely hope this will encourage you to consider the photography on your big day and what value you place on it. Please feel free to leave a comment below and get in touch if you have any questions about my story or the costs of wedding photography.

Podcast 4 – To Specialise, or Generalise? That is the Question

The photographers on the show with me today include 2 new voices: First up we have the lovely Mary Angelini joining us from Chicago, in the States (just to demonstrate that the show has some international appeal :). Joining Mary as the other newcomer is Mr Jeff Hall from the UK. Completing the line-up today is regular guest Lee Jones and Neil Graham

In this show, which is episode 4 we’ll be discussing the Specialising vs Generalising.

Whilst some would say there is nothing wrong with wanting to shoot everything to gain maximum exposure, others may argue that specialising and shooting one niche is the best way to move your photography business (and skill set) forward. Then again what about the seasonality of some niche’s such as wedding photography? Should photographers shoot other things, say food, portraits or commercial, during the winter months to keep cash flow coming in? I’m really excited about this topic and am really looking forward to hearing the thoughts of my guests.

So be sure to take a listen to hear what my guests and I have to say on the topic.


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Click here to listen to the Podcast

Ready Steady Pro HQ
Ready Steady Pro HQ

This weeks Topics

To Specialise, or Generalise. That is the Question


Today’s Little Gems


Show Notes / Links


This weeks Hosts

Michael Rammell
Lee Jones
Neil Graham
Mary Angelini
Jeff Hall