This post is one in a series about how I went full time with my wedding photography business. Check out this first post before reading, and keep following along for continuing advice over the next few weeks!
I might blow your mind when I say this, but your portfolio does not matter very much when you’re just starting out in the wedding photography business. I know, it’s very counter-intuitive and doesn’t make much sense, but it’s true. As a brand new wedding photographer, one of the best way to book a new client is to be confident.
Believe in yourself
This could not sound more cheesy and cliche, right? I might as well just post a photo of this motivational quote with a soaring eagle in the background, right? But seriously, this is truly important! When you’re talking about your business, your skills or your art to a potential client, you have to believe that you are great at what you do. If you don’t think you’re any good, how are you going to convince someone else?
To clarify, believing that you are good at what you do does not mean being blind to all the ways that you need to improve. As artists, we’re never going to be completely satisfied with our work. However, since you’re in the industry, the chances are high that you have at least a few natural (or learned) abilities that make you awesome to work with. Are you charismatic and good at making people feel at ease? Do you have a natural eye for design and stylizing details? Are you incredibly organized and excellent at making sure the couple’s wedding day will go smoothly and run on time? Focus on your strengths and be confident in the way you present yourself, and let your potential client know why these qualities are so important in a wedding photographer!
Know your pitch
The term “sales pitch” often has a negative, sleezy salesmen connotation to it. However, for wedding photographers, a pitch is nothing more than the words you choose to convince a potential client to choose you as their wedding photographer. Thinking through what you want these words to be as well as knowing them well are an important part of building a successful wedding photography business.
First, think about the “believe in yourself” section above. What were the strengths that came to mind when you thought about your own abilities? Take time to really think about what you have to contribute to the world of wedding photography – this likely (and shouldn’t) be just about your art. Be creative in the skills you list for yourself, and regularly reflect on how you are growing and building other skills.
Next, what are your weaknesses? If you’re like me, this sometimes feels like an easier list to start compiling. Seeing what you lack can be intimidating and discouraging, but do not get discouraged! You’ve got tons of time to turn these weaknesses into strengths. For now, you need to focus on how you are going to handle the questions you receive that address weak points.
There is always a way to approach questions that hit on your weak points, but it’s important to think through how to approach these questions before they are actually asked. This is why it’s so necessary to know your weaknesses while creating a pitch. One of the most obvious “weak point” questions for new wedding photographers is, “how many weddings have you shot?” This can feel like a direct attack on your abilities if you haven’t shot very many weddings on your own, but if you address it confidently with a clear and thoughtful answer, most couples will be immediately put at ease.
For this question, I always started with a strength – I had been a second shooter a number of weddings and observed how incredibly successful pros work. This was foundational in being able to go out on my own. Next, I would confidently and proudly say how many weddings I’d shot on my own. For a while, this number was 2. Yes, 2. I booked 15 weddings in this time. I never lied or tried to hide this fact, I said it confidently. Can you image how it would have looked if I suddenly got quiet or tried to avoid the question? My potential client would have had no confidence in me! The great thing about confidence is that when you don’t give your clients a reason to think something is a weakness, they likely won’t think it’s a big deal. After all, you’re the professional. You decide what the client should be worried about and what they should think is no big deal. Always be honest and straightforward with clients when it comes to the weak points. If you are confident in the answers and don’t shy away from answering these types of questions, this instills confidence within your potential clients and you’re way more likely to book them!
Price Yourself Correctly
This subject definitely deserves its own post entirely, but I will keep it brief and relevant to the subject of confidence. You need to price yourself fairly and accurately when you’re a newbie wedding photographer. You can’t charge what someone who is even just 1 year ahead of you is charging. If you don’t have the experience yet, you should be on the very low end of your market. Sometimes, this may even mean shooting your first wedding for free.
However, I don’t recommend shooting more than your first wedding for free. Once you’ve officially shot a wedding on your own, it’s time to start charging for it. Again, price yourself fairly, but don’t shy away from the money! Don’t undervalue yourself. You know what you’re capable of, and if couples sense that you are unusually “cheap,” they will be confused and suspicious. Do the research and even consider talking to other photographers in your community, so that when you tell a potential client your price, you can do so confidently.
You finally have a pricing structure figured out. At some point, you are going to present your prices to your potential client. Again, do this confidently! Don’t give a bride and groom any reason to think you don’t deserve to be paid that amount. You did the research, you deserve it. The more wishy-washy you are and the faster you are to offer a discount, the more a couple is going to question your capabilities. You don’t want to come off as desperate!
Pricing is definitely one of the most difficult areas to navigate when you’re just starting out. You want to book weddings, but you don’t want to come off as “cheap” or lose good business because you’re underpriced. Be patient, ask for advice from other local photographers (and friends), and always be confident!