Wedding photography can be a great part-time or full-time business, but it is not for everyone. Below is an excerpt from my e-book “The Rookie Wedding Photographer’s Survival Guide”, detailing some pros and cons of a wedding photography business:
First of all, most weddings are on weekends. This usually allows for a part-time business to be started, while keeping a regular weekday full-time job. To quit a full-time job and start a photography business without a lot of experience is a big mistake. Photographing weddings and portraits on the side allows time to gain experience and skill without having to jump right into having a full-time studio. It also gives you an opportunity to see if a wedding photography career is right for you. After photographing some weddings you may find that your skills and passions lie elsewhere. In starting out part-time, you minimize your risk of wasting a huge amount of time and money.
Even as a part-time business, wedding photography can be very profitable. Just starting out, you may be able to earn hundreds of dollars profit after only a few weddings. Depending on your skill level, your pricing structure, the products you offer, and your marketing abilities, that profit may quickly jump to the thousands.
Another benefit of weddings is that they are fun. Well, I guess I should say they can be fun. Your personality may play a role in how you survive as a wedding photographer. You may find you either love photographing weddings, or you hate them. Obviously, not every wedding will be perfect. There are many things that can go wrong, and often do. But that doesn’t mean you still can’t have fun. Weddings are a celebration, a big party. Everyone is there to have fun. You are making a visual record of the fun they are experiencing on that day. If you are a creative person, then weddings are a dream. There are so many beautiful details to photograph at a wedding, and so many different ways to photograph them. Every wedding can be an experiment in creativity.
One more positive aspect is job security. Well, sort of. People are always getting married. Marriages occur in one form or another all over the world. A large number of couples getting married want the event documented through photography. As long as people are getting married, and as long as they want pictures taken of the celebration, there will be opportunities to photograph weddings. Many wedding photography jobs come through referrals by the bride, the family, friends, caterer, florist, DJ, etc. If you become a good wedding photographer, you should have a pretty steady stream of work flowing your way through word of mouth. Obviously your income may possibly be limited due to the population of your area, the income level, or other variables. In general, through a combination of marketing, word of mouth, and photographic skill, you should be able to have a decent number of brides knocking on your door.
With the great opportunity, the great profits, and the great fun you can have as a wedding photographer, there are also some negative aspects. One is that wedding photography is a lot more work than just the wedding day. Pre-wedding consultations, post-wedding meetings, image-editing, album design and other miscellaneous errands are all additional work, time, and travel in addition to the wedding day. After seeing all that is involved, you will understand why many photographers charge the high prices they do.
Just as weekend weddings are positive for having a part-time business, they are negative for a full-time business. When friends and family are done their work week and involved in recreation on the weekend, you will be working. Weekend work is normal for many people, but this negative aspect is still something to consider. If you are doing weddings only part-time, the lost weekend isn’t as big a deal. If you decide to do weddings full-time, and you have a family, you may want to think about how the lost weekend time will affect the time with your family. Once you commit to a wedding day, you would have to break your contract to get out of it. That would be poor business practice. If you want to be a full-time wedding photographer, you need to realize that you will lose your weekends. A compromise may be having a wedding and portrait photography business. Of course, if you end up becoming a full-time wedding photographer, you will be quitting your weekday job and devoting that time to your photography business.
The wedding day itself is a physical and mental workout. Weddings can be very stressful for everyone involved. The photographer needs to be physically, mentally, and emotionally prepared for whatever happens on a wedding day. Some wedding days last twelve or more hours with the wedding photographer standing or moving most of the time. There isn’t much time to relax. You are paid to cover the whole event, and must be physically fit enough not fizzle out after a few hours.
Another potential problem is stress. Stress doesn’t affect everyone, but it can be a big factor in how effective you are as a wedding photographer. There is only one chance to photograph a wedding. There are no “do-overs” if something goes wrong. Many times conditions are not ideal for beautiful wedding images because of poor weather or difficult lighting conditions. The wedding party and guests are not always the easiest to deal with. Your equipment could fail. The bride and groom may not be happy with your pictures. When these thoughts go through your mind, a great amount of stress and anxiety can take over. Both positive and negative aspects must be considered before you take the leap into wedding photography.
Photographing a wedding is a huge responsibility and must be taken seriously. A number of factors involving the law, ethics, finances and personal character are involved.
First of all, the sanctity of the ceremony must be considered. I realize divorce rates are high in today’s society, but the marriage ceremony is still a sacred vow between a man and a woman. It shouldn’t be taken lightly by the wedding couple, and it shouldn’t be taken lightly by the photographer. You are recording a legal and binding ceremony, not some college party.
Another aspect to consider is the huge investment of time and money for the wedding day. The dress, the cake, the flowers, the food, the reception hall and everything in between were carefully selected after months (or even years) of planning. Many family and friends along with the bride and groom helped prepare for the special day. You were also chosen to be part of this day, and it is your job to record the day’s events with quality, skill and accuracy.
One last thing to consider is that your reputation as a businessperson, photographer, and human being is on the line. You need to be ethical, honest and professional in your interaction with the bride and groom when dealing with the pricing, the contract, and the delivered product. As a photographer, you need to do everything in your power to deliver the best product possible. As a human being, you need to act in a calm and controlled way, no matter what the circumstances. You may deal with people who are dishonest, unfair, unkind, or unruly but you cannot react in the same way.