First, I want to say thanks to the literally hundreds of people who contacted me about yesterday’s post, So You Call Yourself a Professional.
I received more than 300 responses by email and hundreds more messages on Twitter. Only three were negative and surprisingly, two of those three were even civil. It’s clear that for every troll who’s out there trying to make a name for themselves by bashing someone with a big audience like me, there are 100 of you who like and appreciate what I do. I’ll continue to do it just for you.
I think it’s noteworthy that people from other industries contacted me to say that they faced similar problems. Across the board it’s very clear the post resonated with nearly everyone I care about so thanks. The post was the most popular ever here and Photofocus.com on its first day and it even made the WordPress.com Top 100!
Amongst the praise, several of you asked how you could break out of the bottom pricing tier, so today’s post is designed to help you do just that.
I want to start by reminding you of a paragraph in the original post.
“If you want to learn how to effectively, fairly, accurately and reasonably price your photography, there are lots of places to go for help. The Professional Photographers of America (PPA) http://www.ppa.com/joinppa/ and Wedding & Portrait Photographers International http://www.wppionline.com/join.aspx have tons of information on how to run a wedding and portrait business without devaluing the client, the photographer or the industry.”
Beyond those resources, I want to suggest one very, very important book covering the business side of wedding/portrait photography and one covering technique.
Dane Sanders’ book Fast Track Photographer is a must read. Unfortunately, it’s out of print, but you may be able to get a copy directly from Dane at http://fasttrackphotographer.com/. His new book is coming out soon and I am sure it will also be helpful.
Bambi Cantrell and my friend Skip Cohen wrote a great how-to book. If you read this book and apply it, you’ll be worth more money than you were before you read it. The Art of Digital Wedding Photography: Professional Techniques with Style (Amphoto)
Another suggestion is that you find a mentor. I’ve written recently about this here. https://photofocus.com/2010/01/16/how-to-find-a-mentor/
Also read my post – Five Tips For Photographers Who Want To Go Pro – https://photofocus.com/2009/12/14/five-tips-for-photographers-who-want-to-go-pro/
Lastly, read my post – Five Things You Can Do Right Now To Grow Your Photography Business – https://photofocus.com/2009/10/30/five-things-you-can-do-right-now-to-grow-your-photography-business/
I also have some suggestions for those of you who think that you can only charge a little because you are new at this. First, stop shooting weddings if you don’t feel comfortable that you can deliver a quality product, every time. This is an important day for people. It’s better that you are ready to market a quality product so start shooting as a second photographer to an already established wedding photographer. Most seasoned pros will help you, because they realize it’s in the best interest of the industry to help you. Also you may offer to go out as an assistant to an established pro. Both of these options offer you a chance to get experience in a low-stress environment. The wedding couple isn’t counting on YOU to deliver. You should also get the chance to build up your portfolio this way. Put in your time as an apprentice.
Another great tool is to study other successful wedding photography. If you’ve followed me for any length of time you know that I have a saying: “Writers get better by reading – photographers get better by looking at lots of pictures.”
Believe it or not, your wedding photography will improve if you look at lots of photographers’ images. Some of the best wedding photography you will ever see is available from people like:
Bambi Cantrell – http://www.cantrellportrait.com/
Jim Garner – http://www.jgarnerphoto.com/
Denis Reggie – http://www.denisreggie.com/
Joe Buiissink – http://www.joebuissink.com
Jerry Ghionis – http://www.jerryghionis.com/
Kevin Kubota – http://www.kkphoto-design.com/2009/
Study these people’s portfolio. You will improve. (NOTE: Just because someone is NOT on this list doesn’t mean you can’t learn from them too. I just included some folks who were top of mind and top shelf.)
There are many, many educational resources available to aspiring wedding/portrait photographers. I recently had the opportunity to review products by Jerry Ghionis, an Australian wedding photographer who’s constantly referred to as one of the best in the world. His various teaching products are simply amongst the best I’ve ever seen. Everything from his “Picpockets” to training DVDs are top-notch. Check them out at https://www.theicesociety.com/?page=66
Another method of gaining both experience and a better portfolio is to do charity work. I’d rather see upcoming photographers offer their services to under-priviledged markets as charity than see them break into established markets, grossly undercutting existing services.
In working with under-served markets, you can build the confidence you need to go into your professional career charging going rates. You can also do a good thing for people so it’s a win-win. Volunteering to take portraits at a women’s shelter or inner-city community center can be a great experience. I’ve done both. I got portfolio pieces I am proud of, I learned how to deal with different kinds of people and the folks I served came away very happy with their free portraits in 11×14 frames, all paid for by a local vendor.
Also be sure to regularly read my pal Skip Cohen’s blog – SkipsPhotoNetwork.com. Skip has four decades of experience in the photo industry including a long career at Polaroid. He was the ex-president of Hasselblad USA and served as president of WPPI and publisher of Rangefinder Magazine. He knows his stuff and I’m very proud he stood with me on this issue.
It’s not easy to properly break into the wedding and portrait market. And that’s a good thing. There should be some barrier to entry to help make sure that quality stays high. There’s no magic button or pill you can take. It requires dedication and hard work. Those who would simply sell themselves short because its easy do everyone a disservice. Show them up. Show them how it’s done. Take these suggestions and improve yourself. Taking another paragraph from yesterday’s post…
“Develop your skill set first, then your marketing, then launch with a product that has the value it should and more importantly value that will last cheap candles burn fast and theyre gone.”
Thanks for your support and best wishes to all who are trying to figure this stuff out.