Here I am going to tell you exactly how I got my wedding photography biz off the ground during a global pandemic, when weddings were cancelled and why I decided to scale down to services I offered which helped grow my business more than ever before.
So going back to 2019, I was doing all kinds of photography. Mainly family shoots, kids shoots, cake smashes and lots of mini family and couples sessions. I was working full time for the NHS and had recently changed my job and then every weekend I was out doing shoots. I was editing most evenings after work and after dinner, often editing until 11pm and to be honest the pandemic hit at my breaking point. This amount of work was having a huge affect on my wellbeing, my energy levels and in total honesty - my relationship.
So why was I doing it? Because I honestly believed if I wanted my biz to be a success that was how I needed to work. Don't get me wrong you need to put in the time and late nights for a business to work but I was running myself into the ground and my business wasn't even really profitable or working for ME. The actual problem was that I was doing the wrong type of photography for me and I wasn't charging enough.
When the entire world stopped
I sat down and looked at my biz and I wrote down what I wanted out of it and more importantly what I didn't want. I realised that a lot of the work I was doing, I wasn't even really enjoying that much anymore. Kids just aren't my bag. Sorry but they aren't. It doesn't mean I hate all kids, but connecting with them doesn't come naturally to me. And while parents have always told me "you're great with kids", I always felt a bit awkward and often ended up back at my car feeling stressed.
The mini sessions made for a lot of work and always stressed me out before the day as people would not turn up or cancel very last minute (to be expected with young children) but I would end up with a whole day away from home but with gaps in the middle of the day that I was unable to fill. Lots of sitting in my car waiting for hours for the next family to turn up. I wasn't charging enough to start with so by the time I had two cancellations on a mini session day I had lost any profit I was making.
I realised I was spending hours and hours editing from all the mini sessions and in that time, I could have edited a wedding and made more money and profit. I worked out that I could do one wedding a month and make more money than I was doing working every single weekend ding family shoots. So with that as my initial plan, I made the decision to stop family shoots completely and switch to weddings and couples only. I had done a handful of weddings and I had kinda enjoyed them but the couples who had previously booked me, even though were all lovely couples, weren't really my ideal clients. But I felt I could really LOVE weddings if I found my people.
First thing I did was announce on my socials that I would no longer be taking family bookings - bang goes my entire business so far. I felt like all I did for those first few weeks was turn work down... The family enquiries kept coming in and every time I had an enquiry I was fighting the urge to not turn it down. It would have been so easy to have carried on taking the work that was safe but I knew this change would be for the best.
So what now?
Here I was, sat on my sofa in my lockdown PJ's, with a note book of ideas of what I wanted out of my biz and absolutely no effing clue of where to start.
I had shot 5 weddings previously - none of which I had ever posted on my social media. I wasn't in love with my editing and didn't think my edit would suit the type of weddings I would want to attract. So the first thing I did was book a zoom with another photographer who was offering "ask me anything" zooms.
Enter Jo Greenfield.
I had followed Jo for years and loved how she came across on socials and how brutally honest she was. She is living proof that if you are unashamedly yourself, the right people will find you. And that's exactly the advice she gave me. We chatted about loads of stuff, mainly the business running aspect and editing and after a bit of practice and tweaking my new style was born.
My previous edit
I lacked style. Everything looked pretty much straight out of camera. I didn't have a set preset of any kind so my work lacked consistency. Each gallery I sent out looked slightly different and my social media feed was inconsistent. I just generally didn't love my work.
my edit now
Always using the same preset so my work is consistent. Often adding a bit of grain. Now my work is consistent and I LOVE it. There will always people who don't like your editing style but they won't book you. So edit the way YOU love and those who love you too will always find you.
So with the edit and preset sorted and work that I was finally loving, I was all ready to go. I knew what type of people I wanted to attract.
Fun, outdoorsy, dog lovers, people who don't mind getting wet if it's raining , people who don't mind swearing - as the odd "mother fuckin shitballs" has been known to slip out of my mouth.
I knew that whatever I posted on socials, would be what I got enquiries for so I knew I needed couples and wedding content.
Previously (pre pandemic in about 2018) I had asked around a few other photographers to see if they would let me shadow them at a wedding or second shoot, but was just hit with a wall of "No's". I felt flat and had no idea where to go from there, as I honestly thought second shooting was my only way into the wedding industry. One night, I emailed and messaged about 20 different local photographers and they all told me the same thing "I already have regular second shooters - sorry I can't help". I actually remember feeling pissed off that no one would give me a chance and I even did those cringe story posts, almost begging someone to let me shadow them. For the record that doesn't work either! So I knew this time my way into the wedding scene had to be approached differently. It was down to ME to make this happen.
I threw myself into learning everything I could about the wedding industry. I followed loads of local wedding venues on social media, looked at their websites and basically just swatted up. I followed and chatted to celebrants and wedding planners. These people know every inch of a wedding industry and I just absorbed any information I could. When I say "chatted to them", I don't mean I fired questions into their DM's. I just made genuine friends and connections with people. I have always loved social media, so it's never been a chore to me. I am generally a really sociable and chatty person, so I just started being me online. Showing up on stories - even if it was just walking my dog or talking about what I was up to on my day off. The more I showed of myself the more I attracted like minded fellow suppliers who I could chat to and connect with.
INVESTING IN LEARNING
I started following business coaches and photographers who offered mentoring. I signed up to a course with a wonderful photographer, Jess from USA - who kindly came online late at night for my sessions due to the time difference. It was a few hundred quid and I put off signing up for weeks and I wasn't confident at all that I would get my money back. This was more about my lack of self belief rather than my confidence in Jess' course.
Anyway, eventually I just jumped in and it really was the start of everything changing for me. Jess held me accountable for all the things I said I was going to do and wanted to achieve. She set me small goals and gave me deadlines.
My two areas of concern at the time were:
1) Why would anyone book me for a wedding when my social media was filled with family shoots?
2) Why would another photographer offer me second shooting / shadowing work when all I had photographed is kids?
Answer: They wouldn't.
I knew I could do it but I needed to show them what I was capable of.
With Jess' guidance I arranged a styled shoot. I took her advice and kept it small. Bearing in mind this was during the pandemic and was just after the first lockdown, so we could only meet up in small groups anyway. I took to Facebook and on my local discussion forum asked if any couples would be interested in a free shoot in exchange for some images and I found Marley & Phil. I borrowed a dress from a fellow photographer, asked a local florist to make a bouquet and she kindly only charged me cost price (Rose and Thorns). I wont lie... when I did this shoot I felt bloody alive. I did all the things I wanted. It was outdoors in the woods, we ran in the rain and the couple was carefree and trusted me. My absolute ideals.
And then I did another one with my friends Natalie and Jakob...
And another one with my friend Marty....
(Another blog pending about how I plan & execute a mini styled shoot including my email templates that I sent to invite suppliers to be involved).
NEWSFLASH!! - it's going to cost you money!
I get so many DM's from new photographers wanting advice and my advice is always the same. You have to invest one way or another if you want to grow. Whether it's workshops, online courses or doing your own styled shoots, they will cost money. 9 times out of 10 they reply "I'm a bit short of money at the minute".
I get it, I really do. Times are shit for a lot of us at the moment but this is not a cheap industry to work in or break into. The learning will never stop. I follow and am friends with photographers who have been doing this for 15+ years and they still attend workshops and coaching. I still attend mentoring courses and invest in learning. So you need to make peace with spending a bit of dollar.
Every penny will pay off.
Once I started posting this kind of content the enquiries slowly started coming in and by the end of 2020 I was fully booked for 2021. The second shooting offers then started to come in too. And the more genuine friends I made, the more second shooting opportunities there were. So making connections is key. Workshops are a great way to meet like minded suppliers and network which often leads to working together.
Ok I'll be honest my desktop has a folder full of PDF's I have bought from various photographers over the last few years and I love them. I can download, save them and keep going back to read as often as I want. They have varied from free to £100 and are a great small investment and great place to start.
Just a few that I have bought are below:
Instagram Do's & Don'ts (Jo Greenfield)
Photographer to Film maker (Jo Greenfield)
Client newspaper template (Jo Greenfield)
Instagram guide (Esme Whiteside)
Email quick fixes (Kelly Mortimer)
Killer Content Calendar (Socialsbymollyw)
Sony Settings (Laura Adams Photography)
Free Wedding Workflow (Natalie J Weddings)
There are so many wedding workshops out there to choose from with every kind of style you can think of so choose one that suits your style and your vibe. They are a great place to start. Attendees will be photographers of all skill types and there will be experienced photographers on hand to help if needed. Great for content building.
On Instagram check out the following:
Workshops by Lark,
Eden Photography workshop
Looks like wedding
My prettiest workshops
Lots of other photographers do mentoring for all different areas of photography and business so it's worth investing in this.
On Instagram check out the following:
(website tags at bottom of this page).
It's vital when investing in a mentor / workshop that you are not just going with the one you can afford. The prices vary so much so it's easy to just plump for "the average". Do not do this! The prices vary as they offer different ranges of help. When I wanted to invest in zooms with photographers I went for people who I liked, admired and who seemed most relatable to me. For example: It would have been a waste of money getting biz advice from a super luxury wedding photographer who specialises in destination weddings abroad, when that is never going to be the vibe I strive for. I had a full time job when starting out (still do - part time work pending), so I chose people who would know how that felt to juggle the two.
Choosing people who you want to learn from is key.
Look at their socials and website.
Look at exactly what you will get for your money - will you learn from this?
Don't forget I now do couples posing sessions. These are for new togs who have never posed and prompted couples before or for any tog who wants to brush up on some posing practice. The main focus of the session being movement and keeping couples moving for relaxed and naturally fun photos.
I have launched these sessions predominantly for networking and content building.
Click the Link below to visit my coaching page and to book a slot on the next session.
It often feels like a catch 22 situation as you need the experience but most photographers won't take a non experienced photographer to a real live wedding with them.
If my couple have paid for a second shooter - I will only take an experienced photographer with me who shoots in a similar style to me. It's only right as the couple are paying their fee.
If I am doing a wedding alone and don't need a 2nd photographer but the couple don't mind me bringing along a second for experience then I will happily take someone along with me. The most important thing to me in this scenario is the persons personality and how we get on and I would never take along someone I had never met / spoken to a lot. Which again is why it's so important for you to build genuine connections with people.
So basically to round up you have to make moves. Slipping into another togs DM's asking to second shoot will not cut the mustard. Believe me I tried it and I cringe when I think about it. Occasionally it will work and you may get the odd unpaid job but in my experience you are best to get out there and make this shit happen, cuz if I can do it during a pandemic when weddings are cancelled then anyone can do it.
Show the world you mean business.
GOOD LUCK - NOW GO AND CLAIM WHAT'S YOURS.