In this day and age, more people than ever before are using cameras of all shapes, sizes and varieties. Photography is perhaps more accessible than it has ever been. As a result, more and more people are presenting themselves as professional photographers.
As I have stated previously, I like to have the credentials behind me, and take the craft very seriously. Perhaps this is because I already have a degree and work in a profession that doesn’t easily allow for human error. Consequently, I view professional photography, most notably wedding photography, very similarly. I see this also, as an occupation for which you need to absolutely know what you’re doing, be prepared for anything, and know that you only have one opportunity to get it right for this couple. It is curious to me then, how so many photographers with limited to zero experience shooting weddings, are out there taking people’s money as professionals, without a second thought. This was the topic for discussion at one of my recent classes. What do others think? It is absolutely true that ANYONE can call themselves a professional photographer- you do not have to have any qualifications. For this reason alone, and because it is enjoyable to take photographs, a lot of people see it as easy money. What happens though, when they stuff up someone’s wedding photos? You can’t re-shoot a wedding. I was therefore extremely shocked to learn just how many people scrimp on the cost of a wedding photographer.
When I got married many years ago, I said to my husband-to-be, that the only things we would be left with after the day were memories and the photos. I was absolutely prepared to pay whatever I had to to have an absolute professional shoot my day. An award-winning, AIPP member. I cared less about the cost of the dress and the reception venue, halved my guest list, and prioritised my photos. A decision I have never regretted. But then I love good photography.
If I ever work as a professional wedding photographer- a longheld dream- it will be after gaining my qualifications and years of practice. I would have been devastated if my wedding photos had been ruined, and could not imagine being responsible for someone else’s disappointment. In my work as a Midwife, the rules are very similar. You must know what you are doing, have customer service and communication skills, and know this is a once-in-a-lifetime experience for this couple that cannot be re-done should you make an error. It’s a high-stress job if you take it seriously enough, and you should. The rewards are wonderful, but you better get it right.
Which brings me to prospective clientele. A good friend of mine is a professional makeup artist as well as a Midwife. She is fantastically talented at both. However, whilst as Midwives we will never be out of a job, makeup artistry, like photography, is much more competitive. How does one stand out? How should you best market your services when around every corner is another makeup artist, undercutting you by charging less and therefore receiving more bookings? You have to know your own worth, and absolutely believe in the quality of your work. There will always be someone cheaper than you, but they may not be better. Do you really want the clients who can’t appreciate good work from bad? I know I don’t. So you have to be business-minded also, in order to survive. You cannot lower your prices to ridiculous levels if you wish to sustain your business, instead, you have to find a way to market yourself that draws attention from your intended clientele. Your work needs to be good enough to be recommended. You need to be consistently providing what your clients are paying for. They will talk, I found my own wedding photographer this way.
I think you also need to have a reliable second income, particularly when establishing yourself, because the facts are, you may not ever get as much work as you would like, particularly if you charge what you’re actually worth for your services.
I read a LOT of photography blogs, and chat with my lecturers, all of whom are running their own businesses. I see time and time again the above advice. So I’m going to keep on learning and do my time. Hopefully I’ll come out of it with the knowledge and ability to make a second career out of my current hobby.