1. Be patient and stick with it
Nothing happens overnight. Everything takes work. Starting a wedding photography business is just another one of these things.
This isn’t to say that you cannot buy a camera and do a friend’s wedding straight away. However, if you want to have a self-running business that is generating organic traffic on google a certain level of work is required.
I feel one of the most important character traits for someone to succeed at something is to have a level of persistence. To keep working at something and not giving in to the negative attitude of making excuses. If there is something preventing you from reaching your goal, do not blame others or say that it cannot be done, but find manageable target and objects that will help you overcome these challenges.
From discussing progress of building a website with other successful photographers it could take up to a year before you have a substantial client list, have regular traffic to your site and to be converting traffic to. This is particular prevalent if you are to have a full-time job whilst you are building this up. Of course, there are ways to speed up this process by advertising and building campaigns however you will still need to have enough valuable content on your website in order to encourage people to choose you over the competition.
2. Limit the gear you buy
A lot of people feel that they need to buy all the gear in order to feel confident going out on their first shoot. They also feel they need to buy this straight away. Either because it will force them to pursue the idea, or they are inclined to want more expensive toys.
My suggestions for anyone starting out in the field is to start off with a limited selection of gear. Ideally with one body and 2 lenses in order to give you a variety of shots. Moreover, you will need some form of computer in order to develop a website.
I in fact started by just buying a computer in order to generate great content on my site. This was before taking my first picture. As I knew I would need to set up all the different account; google business account, social media accounts, business website whilst also developing enough content in the way of venues and blogging. Basically there was plenty for me be getting on with.
This strategy also gave me piece of mind. I wanted to know that I could build a website up without having to commit to such a large outlay for the individual cameras. There is a limitation to how far you can go with this method. As social media pages will need to be populated with your own images however this is a good strategy to get started on.
Camera suggestions for beginners:
Canon 5D Mark III (Body - £1725)
CANON EF 85MM F/1.2L II USM (lens - £1,329)
Canon EF 35mm f1.4L II USM (Lens £1350) or CANON EF 24-70mm f2.8L II USM (Lens £1,265)
One of the best websites I have found for getting the best valued equipment is http://www.portusdigital.com/lenses/canon.html of which the prices above represent.
From reading reviews and from DSLR experts the canon Mark IV is not one that is worth investing in for the extra money as you achieve near about the same quality with the mark III.
The lenses above will also give you a nice range of shots in order to capture the 300 or so images any client will want on the day.
The Canon 85mm will provide beautiful portrait shots whilst the 35mm or 24-70 will allow you to capture brilliant wide-angle shots for group photos or scenery. Nikon equivelent are also available if this is your preference.
3. Build a quality portfolio
This is the step that I believe most people would find the most daunting. If you have just started out you may not have even done a photoshoot of any sorts. So, there are two thoughts that you probably think clients will consider:
I was fortunate in some ways as I knew another photographer and was able to attend his weddings in order to build my first pages. I think this is a highly advisable strategy if you know someone nice enough to let you attend. You can also then learn from them whilst they are at work.
Don’t feel though that this is the only option. There are plenty of other courses that will allow you to photograph models in a wedding setting. Moreover, if you are not comfortable behind the camera it would also be worthwhile joining a wedding photography class in order to build your understanding of all the elements that go into a photoshoot.
The main thing is that you do not give up at this stage as there are always ways to build your knowledge. What’s more, if you have bought the camera you can always build up shots of family and friends in order to develop original material.
If you need shots of the wedding venues you can also use the camera to take original photos to express the interest in the venues you may be enquired to perform at.
4. Keep learning and improving (in Photography, SEO, blogging, website design, advertising)
The internet has opened a lot of doors for a lot of people. It can do the same for you. However, it takes a fair amount of work and determination. It is advantageous to know what you are getting yourself into before you start.
As a basic you will need to set up a website and optimize your site for searches. People who appear on the first page of google haven’t done so without knowing how to get there. Particularly with wedding photography.
In order to rank on the first page, you will need to ensure that you have a good quality site that uploads original material. I am always reading or listening to new material on how to get your website ranking. There are always new things to learn. What is key being that people are clicking onto your site, clicking through to other links within your site and actually staying there for a fair amount of time. The difficulty is achieving all these factors.
As a general rule of thumb from the tips I have read you want to:
Blog frequently on the topics that relate to the wedding photography or photography in general. These can include venues, weddings you have done, photography, locations, tips on weddings and more.
When you blog use catchy titles that have the keywords that would be searched in google within them.
Blogs should be greater than 500 words
Ensure all the pages on your site display how you want them to be seen on google by changing the URLs and editing the captions that will appear in the caption when you appear on google suggested lists
Have other legitimate quality websites to link through to your website. This is a challenge when starting out however there are some useful paid services that will blog and reference your site for a fee
Ensure all the images on your site have relevant titles like “www.paulharrisweddingphotography.com/wedding-photography-berkshire” as opposed to www.paulharrisweddingphotography.com/J12342sx-skd
Ensure that your domain name is relevant to the business
Utilise all social medias and post frequently
There is a huge amount more that will be useful to you. Of course, when your site is established and you believe that your conversion rate will be high you can advertise on google or Facebook which again is a journey in its own write.
For tips, I would suggest reading the following:
Perry Marshall – google AdWords
Perry Marshall – Facebook advertising
Adam Clarke – SEO 2017-08-21
You may also want to listen to TheBlogMillionaire podcast for tips on blogging.
5. write a plan and stick to it
My final piece of advice is to write a plan. A study was performed on a group of Harvard MBA students to find what careers they had entered into after leaving school. This was a 1979 study that asked graduates “Have you set clear, written goals for your future and made plans to accomplish them?”
84% had no specific goals at all
13% had goals but they were not committed to paper
3% had clear, written goals and plans to accomplish them
What they found was 13% who had goals but did not commit them to paper were earning twice as much as the 84 percent who had no goals at all. Even more incredible was that the three percent who had clear, written goals were earning, on average, ten times as much as the other 97 percent put together. It therefore pays to have a plan.
You need to know where you are going before you start so that you know how to be productive in achieving your goals. I would suggest writing down a 5-year plan overview as well as a yearly plan in greater detail. Finally note down what you need to do every month. Then it will be easier to see on a weekly basis what needs to be completed.
I would suggest using the SMART method for setting yourself targets.
S - specific, significant, stretching
M - measurable, meaningful, motivational
A - agreed upon, attainable, achievable, acceptable, action-oriented
R - realistic, relevant, reasonable, rewarding, results-oriented
T - time-based, time-bound, timely, tangible, trackable
So, examples of these may be to set yourself 2 blogs to write a week, or reading 1 book a month to increase your knowledge of SEO, research x number of venues etc.
Finally, be aware that your time is precious and you will probably be starting this business like I did outside of your full-time job. Therefore, it may be helpful to use the 80/20 principle to work out the importance of your actions. This is also called the Pareto principle
It is a common rule of thumb in business; e.g., "80% of your sales come from 20% of your clients” or “80% of you progress comes from 20% of the activities”.
Therefore, really focus on what is going to progress your business by considering the few important jobs that will exhibit what you believe is the greatest results.
Another useful tip would be to set up a grid with 4 quadrants. On one side of the grid you have urgent and not urgent and the other side you have important and not important. Of course, the important and urgent tasks should be completed immediately. However, you want the most amount of your time to focus on not urgent but important jobs and leaving any tasks that are unimportant.
There are plenty of books that will help you keep motivated, help you prioritise what is important and also get you inspired about building your own business. 3 books you may want to consider are:
I hope you have found all the information above useful and informative. These are steps I followed and considered thoroughly. The main thing is that you stick to it. There are hundreds of photographers out there that are making a living doing what they love. They did not all start with a comprehensive portfolio, all the gear or any amazing ability. They would have all thought about doing it in the position that you are in now. If they have been able to achieve it then you will to.
Thank you for reading and please leave a comment below to let me know if this helped.