After 16 years of practising photography, I began shooting weddings professionally five years ago. A year later, I took the plunge making it my full-time job and haven’t looked back since!
I absolutely love shooting and editing images - being able to capture a moment in time and creating magic out of it. I feel like this is my purpose in life. But what most people don't see is everything that happens behind the scenes; the less glamorous stuff that doesn't get talked about.
Here are some things I wish I'd known before starting out on my business adventure.
The REAL Work
It's easy to romanticise being a wedding photographer. The glitz and glamour play out in your mind as you head to luxury venues or to far off mountains and epic lakes to capture couples vowing their undying love to each other. Holding the attention and envy of family and friends as you post epic shot after epic shot on your social media. In reality, what I wish I'd known before becoming a professional wedding photographer, is how damn hard this journey was going to be.
If you're thinking of doing wedding photography (or any photography really) as a full-time job and as your main source of income, then you have to look at yourself as a business owner, as opposed to just a photographer. You're going to have all the headaches of running a regular business and more!
I can't quite remember where I read it but someone did a survey that showed how professional photographers spend less than 2% of their time actually in front of their cameras shooting, which is crazy to think about. It's been a lot of stumbling around trying to get up and running but over the years, I've learned so much more than just photography. I know how to do the accounts (chase payments, pay my taxes, etc.), how to do marketing, establish a social media presence, post regular content, create websites, understand SEO, learn to write blogs and articles and so much more!
I would recommend taking it slow at first, while you’re learning and wrapping your head around everything else that isn't actually photography. Everything else takes time (and there’s a lot of it!) so you just need to be patient and learn as you go on the job.
So Much To Do, So Little Time
The best way to get this across I think is by showing you this chart below drawn by Irina Blok. While not quite 100% true, it's not that far off. Especially during the summertime!
A 16-hour workday is quite a common thing now during the peak wedding season. We can be doing up to four weddings a week, with days off consisting of editing photos, emailing soon to be brides and running around with errands. All this can easily mean starting work from the moment I wake up, to the moment I close my eyes. How do I keep up, you ask? That's where caffeine comes into play.
But in all seriousness, if this is going to be your full-time gig, then you're going to need to run it like a business. And that means there's ALWAYS something to do and hardly any time off. Especially if you do it all on your own.
If you've finished all your editing, then you’ll need to post on social media to keep content consistent. Finished that? Then you’ll need to go work on your website and do maintenance or clean your gear, do some marketing or do a million other things that can help you book your next gig and keep loyal clients, because at the end of the day, the pressure is on you and if you don't shoot or book clients, then you don't have any income.
Yes, these are totally real! When you work for yourself, the work never stops so it can become easy to lose sight of it all and just keep going. Sometimes you don't even want a break because of how much you have on but it is SUPER important to make sure you set time aside for yourself. To have a break physically and mentally. I don't mean like an hour or two, I mean some time to really relax and be away from work.
I recommend blocking out a period for a break, whether it's a big chunk at the end of the year or a couple of times throughout the year. For us, there is usually a period of time in December and January that we carve out time and don't take any bookings. This is so we can reset before heading into the second half of the wedding season.
Take A Variety Of Images - Not Just The Epic Ones!
Starting out, I always thought getting all the epic shots and having a long photoshoot was my job. That every bride wants an endless amount of gram-worthy photos for them to plaster the internet with. I guess it's true in some sense as the extravagant images always get the likes; but once it's all over, it's the small candid moments the couple will cherish, more than the flashy ones. Whether it's a kid crying because he dropped his ice cream, a grandma flicking a tear from her eye or even just the family dog rolling around in the hay. Those are the photos the couple will look back on and smile and be thankful for that you captured.
In the end, the day is about helping the couple remember their special day and capturing the antics of friends and family. The epics are a must but don't spend so much time and energy trying to capture these moments. Don't forget about the candid, small moments too.
The Brighter Side
After the doom and gloom, you're probably wondering why on earth I still do it? The answer is because I love it!
The way I see it, someone pays me to party every Saturday. It's also a pleasure and an honour to be trusted with the responsibility of capturing the memories for one of the most important days in a person's life. There's just no replacing that kind of joy.
About Dear White Productions
Dan and Jo from ‘Dear White Productions’ are both international award-winning Auckland wedding photographers and videographers. They pride themself on being able to create epic masterpieces as well as perfectly capture the small intimate moments that go unseen through the day. More like "friends with cameras" than photographers, both the couples and guests can feel at ease and party away while great moments are captured.
Check out more of their work here!