Being a wedding photographer is loads of fun. We get to do something we love and get paid for it too! How many people can say they do something they enjoy so much?
The biggest shock for most people is when they realise that the wedding industry is indeed a business and we need to develop a lot more skills than our eye.
There are a lot of fantastic wedding photographers out there with very different approaches to a wedding.
Some have a very distinctive style, while others are of a more generalist approach but they all have one think in common – they follow their own star and not others.
Finding your niche
There are a lot of wedding clients out there and they like a lot of different things too. Finding your niche and focusing it will in the long term develop your brand and help you find the clients that you want and who want you.
The biggest lesson I have learned in my time as wedding photographer is that it is more important to develop what is unique in you and following that, than it is to follow trends, mistaken assumptions about what clients want etc.
Ironically the more niche you become the more and better clients you will attract.
I have been in a position of an enquiry a day and my conversion rate was terrible, because my message was confused and probably a lot of my clients were either confused by my website and brochure or just price searchers.
As I honed and focused my message, even in times of low enquiries my conversion rate shot up, because I was speaking more clearly to my clients.
The ones who wanted what I was offering rather than my previous scattergun approach, which was just attracting people who didn’t know what they wanted.
We all ape other photographers and approaches to some extent when we first start out, it’s for us as artists to trust in ourselves and develop our own style and approach to wedding photography as we build up our experience and confidence.
Now I am not telling you to follow every whim and forgo all conventions because you are following your “art”. We must not forget that we are still commercial, we need a market and a client base so maybe leave some of your Dada inspired stuff in your private work!
Did I used to do that?
I remember shooting a wedding early in my career, and the wedding car driver asked me when I would like to use the cars for some photographs.
He saw this as a normal part of the wedding day and was also probably used to nearly all of the photographers he came across shooting their clients with the wedding cars. I responded that I never used the cars for portraits, and he looked genuinely surprised.
It was this surprised look, which filled me with a sense of doubt hours later, and I wrestled with it for the rest of the day. “Should I have taken photographs of the clients with the car?” “Did I come across as arrogant” “who do I think I am” etc. etc.
To be honest my clients would have happily went along with the car if I suggested it, because that’s wedding photography right?
It took me a few years to build up the courage to tell clients that I wont be jumping in the car when the bride arrives at church in the car with her father and taking photographs of them while asking them to smile.
I was terrified of telling them in the meeting that I wouldn’t be doing all the things they expected and losing the job. So for a few years I was a docu/generalist photographer. Trying to do documentary photography while still trying to please the general crowd.
What makes this type of thing worse is the average client will expect these type of shots as they have seen them on friends wedding photographs etc. so expect them in return. Its like an urban myth, nobody knows where it came from but they follow it anyway.
It’s very easy to fall into the trap of trying to please the general consensus that you feel is safer and will get you more bookings. When you factor in how many other photographers are doing the same things it will actually be harder to stand out to your potential clients.
Why I do Documentary wedding photography
What turned me to the idea of genuinely documenting a wedding was Jeff Ascough. It was a photo on his website of an older gentleman probably the father of the groom.
He was praying in the aisle of the church with the crowd of guests around him in the run up to the arrival of the bride.
It is a very powerful image and one, which made me think of wedding photography as a truthful reflection of the wedding day rather than a collection of shots you impose on somebody’s wedding. (He still has it on his site. I would too).
Ten years ago he was the man in the UK. He still is an amazing high-end photographer but the world has caught up and there are now a lot of brilliant photographers who shoot real documentary.
Why do I shoot documentary? I have never liked getting my photograph taken. I would always skulk away when somebody pointed a camera and asked the group to smile. Because my smile never looked right, I looked uncomfortable mostly.
I actually got into the industry via video. I edited and second shot for a company back in the bad old days of one-camera shoots on a tripod with lots of camera movement. So I know how much of a dick a lot of photographers can be.
It was the documentary photographers I worked with who were the least egotistical and more considerate of my needs rather than their own. Don’t get me wrong not all other photographers, be they more formal or generalist were bad, it was just the documentarists that left an impression.
The photographers I liked on the web were again mostly documentarists. So it was a natural thing when I started photographing weddings that I took a documentary approach.
For me there is nothing like capturing a really emotional moment between two people. When the feelings are all over their faces it’s what drives me on to capture as much ‘real’ as I can.
I also like the fact that my clients can enjoy their wedding without worrying about me as the photographer. Knowing I have captured a moment to be treasured in years to come is very satisfying.
I think it has been the web, which has exploded wedding photography. Websites like Fearless photographers have opened the world to a whole new generation of amazingly talented photographers from all over the world.
I think it is a very exciting time to be a wedding photographer. In the past few years the influx of new talent has raised the bar in a big way.
No matter how good you think you are, you only need to visit Fearless for some humble pie and genuine inspiration.
Everything you were told in the early business seminars and training groups still holds true, to create a brand you must develop your uniqueness.
This will attract the right type of clients to you. The clients who share some of your values and who you will resonate with.
Be brave, be smart, follow your instincts, but don’t forget to listen, and be prepared to change your mind. But above all follow your own star and have fun on the way!