Being a good photographer doesn’t guarantee you success if you’re going pro and shooting for money. The recipe for long-lasting growth is a mix of essential ingredients that make you a marketable photographer—some of which might involve refinements to who you are as a person.
#1. Don’t shoot just weddings.
For two reasons. One, you might find your future wedding clients at a rock concert you’re shooting, for example. Two, it takes time to establish yourself as a wedding photographer and to start with, you might find new skills and hone existing ones by shooting, for instance, child portraits, jewelry or landscapes of great scale. Experience in all genres will come in handy.
#2. Engage with the couple.
That’s pretty obvious, unless you think all you need to do is just turn up at a wedding, click pictures, and deliver them on a DVD.
It’s absolutely important that you build a “relationship” with your clients. Start with understanding their needs, set clear expectations, and of course deliver on them. A great equation with your couple also translates to great pictures, because they’re relaxed and posing for a “friend”—not for a dumb, unemotional gadget. Psst…the secret to future business also lies in referrals.
#3. Present yourself well on the wedding day.
Popular wedding photographers enjoy a celebrity status. It’s not just because they click good pictures. They do, but they also happen to dress like a diva, turn heads with charm, and leave a trail of compliments. Think Jasmine Star and you get the picture.
#4. Be a people person, not a machine.
In line with what we said about presenting yourself well, it helps to be a “human” photographer, not a “machine” photographer. Often, it can mean stepping out of your comfort zone and chatting up the bride’s uncle, who happens to run a very successful PR firm. There you go, you’re creating for yourself a window of future opportunities. Remember, there are eyes watching you from all corners of a wedding hall—it pays, literally, to be social.
#5. Wedding photography starts from pre-consultation and ends at delivery.
It’s not just the wedding day that requires you to be at your efficient best. Be responsive to inquiries, open to discussions, communicative to make the best pictures on the big day, and silken smooth with your delivery. There are resources available that help you with every step of the customer engagement process (inquiry to delivery)—make the most of them.
#6. Expectations and delivery should be clearly stated and recorded.
A wedding photography agreement is the most important element of your business. A well-crafted agreement, which states clearly how you’ll meet your customer’s needs and expectations, will help you keep your business running smoothly—and your customer satisfied, at the least.
#7. Build a good portfolio.
Digital or print, a good portfolio that represents your style and demonstrates your skill is not just customary but vital to reel in customers. Make sure it’s not just a miniature collection of your 10 best pictures—your client also wants to see if you’ve got the experience to handle whatever they throw at you.
#8. Establish an online presence and build your brand.
Professional photographers can’t live in islands anymore, now that the Web is where people shop. Build a strong online presence, make the best use of social media, and engage with the market actively.
#9. Get inspired.
Go online and see what other photographers are doing. You’ll be sometimes surprised to see that they’re trying new things…better things. And keeping themselves ahead of the competition. At times, it’s good to just see some good pictures and get inspired.
#10. Make friends with vendors and people in the industry.
The organizers might be able to give you valuable insights about the event. The décor people might fine-tune the look of the venue to match your style. A fellow wedding photographer might refer a client that he had to pass up. You never know where your next assignment could come from.