Cost of Admission. Thoughts of Turning Photography into a Business.

I hear something like this almost every time I talk to someone interested in photography:

I’m looking to shadow a wedding photographer to get some insight to the beast that is wedding photography.
I’m still an amateur and would really like to learn more about wedding photography.

gr-1753.jpg1.) Wedding photography is really no different than any other photography, all the rules/guidelines still apply. What scares people is that a wedding photographer has to be good at everything, you will do product shots (rings, flowers, other important item to the couple) food photography, landscape photography, Architectural photography, you will have to do formal portraits, candid portraits, and some photojournalist work, all in one day on a crazy timeline, dealing with people who are emotionally…. unpredictable. Someone once told me, that the amateurs practice till they get the shot right, pros practice till they can’t get it wrong. If you want to work in the wedding field you need to master (or at least be very, very good) at all the genres of photography, because you will have to make images from just about every genre quickly and usually in poor lighting.

2.) Either you have the passion for the photography or you don’t (by the question raised I assume that you do. ) but the photography is just the cost of admission. Take the time to learn the business side, that is far, far more important. You will spend more of your time doing business, taxes, sales, networking, and other stuff than you will spend doing photography. Trust me on this. The business side is far less glamorous but this part of it will dictate if you succeed or fail. You can have the best images, be the best photographer in the world, but if you suck at business and marketing, you will not have success.

Rings and Bible 3.) There is an astounding amount of competition in this market. You cannot compete on price; you have to have something that separates you from the competition. I think I should say that again. You cannot compete on price. Everyone loses. Do the research, study the market, define your target market, MAKE A BUSINESS PLAN, understand the cost of doing business, set a reasonable price point to make a profit, you will not (probably) make a profit the first couple years, but you can break even. I used to work for a large manufacturer, and worked a ton of overtime to save up for the gear I needed before selling my services. Get out of debt before you start this venture. I say all of this, because if you are going to seek work as a photographer, part time or full time, you will most likely be working for yourself, and all most all photographers fail, not because of imagery, but because of not understanding the business side.

Consider joining the PPA, you can find a wealth of information about both the art side and the financial side.

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