Passion is an essential ingredient for any successful wedding photography business and probably the main reason you decided to pursue this path in the first place. If your heart’s not in it, potential clients will quickly pick up on it and probably go elsewhere.
But passion alone is not enough. There are a lot of other elements that need to be taken into account if you want to build a thriving business for the long-term future.
In this episode, we’ll chat about some of the areas you need to work on to create a successful wedding photography business. Taking high-quality photographs that stand out from the rest is essential, which may require a significant investment of time and money when it comes to purchasing professional photographic gear and practicing your craft.
You also need to have good time management skills and be able to juggle the photography and administration sides of your business. Do you have the customer service skills to engage clients, listen to their needs, and deliver the results they want?
And can you photograph the number of weddings you need to make a living, while still leading the lifestyle you want? These are just some of the things you need to consider, aside from your passion for wedding photography, if you want to create a successful business.
Hopefully, you love being a wedding photographer and even have the confidence to be successful. Perhaps you think that as long as you believe in yourself and are passionate about what you’re doing that you’re going to make it. I don’t mean to burst any bubbles but from my perspective, it’s not enough. We’re going to have to do much more than that and juggle many things to get where we want to be.
Let’s take a step back. Whatever your definition of success is as a wedding photographer, I really believe that you have to have the passion to achieve it. I don’t know of one single wedding photographer that tells me, at least when they got started and when they’re doing so well, that they’re not passionate about it.
I highly encourage that we keep that fire alive when it comes to having drive and commitment. But passion alone is not enough.
Whatever stage you’re at in your wedding photographer career...whether you’re just starting out and about to photograph your first wedding or you’ve been doing this for years, I really believe that we need to have some level of passion.
Perhaps it’s more of a curiosity in the beginning. For whatever reason, you buy a professional DSLR or mirrorless camera and maybe it could be that the camera is really a stepping stone into a wedding photography career.
But when it comes to passion, you’re going to know when you’re in that realm of the feeling. When you’re going from just curiosity and interest to "Yeah, I really want to do this!"
What are the signs? It could be that you’re willing to sacrifice your free time that you’d normally spend socializing with friends or doing other hobbies.
All of a sudden, you really want to spend the evening reading up on how to shoot in manual mode or starting to look into different web design companies.
You’re going to start seeing some shifts in how you allocate your time, your energy and even your money. Perhaps you’re not going to splurge as much on eating out or even going on a trip. Instead, you’re saving up to buy that camera or getting your website up and running.
Wedding photography is not something that we wake up and have 100% passion for.
When I first started out, I had one leg still in my engineering career and the other foot straddling over on the wedding photography side. I was sort of teetering on those two until my passion for wedding photography took over.
So everything’s great. You’re excited and on an all-time high. Your passion for wedding photography is only growing inside of you. Well, what’s the problem? Eventually, you’re going to hit a brick wall.
A wake-up call that just being passionate is not enough anymore. It might help you get through certain challenges but there’s going to be a point where you just don’t know what to do next.
Let’s take it a step back. Recently in episode 101 of my podcast, I talked about not getting enough traffic to our website. So despite being very passionate about wedding photography, it’s not helping you book more weddings or achieve your goals.
So what are you going to do at that point?
You’re thinking: I’m very much passionate about wedding photography. I have the gear. I’m dead serious about this and I’m doing everything I can. So why aren’t couples inquiring and wanting to hire me?
Passion is not enough to help you become successful and (if you’ve had a taste of that success) to sustain it, thrive and grow.
So if you’re not achieving your goals, booking weddings and making the earnings that you consider a “success”, then something needs to change in the way you run your business. Even if you think, I really, really want to make this work, it’s not going to affect your goals at all. It’s not going to make it any more likely that you’re going to accomplish them and that’s just the hard truth.
Let’s say you do meet a prospective couple and they want to have a consultation with you. The fact that you’re very passionate about wedding photography, that’s going to help a lot. But it’s definitely not enough to get the booking.
You can be the most passionate wedding photographer in the world but if your branding is not up to par, you have poor photography skills, and your pricing doesn’t justify it, the couple is not going to hire you.
What if you’re not getting any inquiries at all. Nobody’s visiting your website. It’s really difficult to keep that passion alive. Our confidence is going to take a hit and the realization that you’re nowhere near where you thought you would be when you bought this camera gear or when you put up your website.
But rather than give up, you have to keep that faith strong. Now I’m not saying to have delusional optimism that it’s going to magically work out and miracles are going to happen. Definitely, don’t count on that.
I always say that if you base your business on miracles, you’re setting yourself up for failure. You’ve got to have an actual plan. Facts, data, numbers. Think objectively.
But if the passion is still there, what now? You need to assess the situation that you’re in. Why is it that we’re not getting enough inquiries? A lot of the time it’s that we’re not even getting enough visits to our website.
It’s great if you’re posting on Instagram and you might even have that tied to your Facebook fan page so you can see the analytics and how many viewers.
You can have all the followers in the world, likes, and comments but if you’re not getting any conversions to your website and somebody filling out the contact form, how is that an efficient way to be spending time marketing your business?
Or maybe you are spending some money on advertising such as with The Knot, WeddingWire, Yelp or Here Comes the Guide. It means there are eyeballs to your listing on that site. But maybe the photo that you used is not speaking to prospective clients and once they click on your storefront, maybe they don’t like the gallery of images or the lack of reviews you have.
Many of us start out really excited about being a wedding photographer and hope that a miracle is going to happen and we’re just going to get all these inquiries flooding in.
I promise you, that will not happen. But you can use the drive from being passionate to help you with all these other things.
It’s not fun looking at numbers and data such as Google Analytics or the heat maps to my website, which shows you where people are viewing and how long they are staying.
In an ideal world, I wouldn’t need to look at all that and I wouldn’t need to spend money on advertising to get leads. I wouldn’t constantly need to tweet things here and there. But I’ve got to do all those things because it’s a necessary part of trying to be a successful wedding photographer.
But one of the main reasons why I don’t mind doing all of that is because I’m passionate about wedding photography. That passion, that excitement, that love for it is very much innate in me.
There are situations in running my business where I think, I don’t really want to be doing that and it’s in those situations that the passion for wedding photography definitely kicks in. I remind myself that there’s a reason why I’m doing this. This is a means to a bigger and better end.
Use the passion you have as fuel to try and solve other challenges and issues you’re facing. Maybe you’re in the middle of a busy summer and you’ve got to juggle a conventional job or find a babysitter for your kids. Or maybe you’ve got a wedding where it’s going to be a 15-hour day and you have to travel out of town.
That’s where having the passion for wedding photography really helps. You’re looking at a means to an end. Just imagine how your services and the photos that you capture are going to bring joy to the couple. Remember that they picked you over everybody else. That has and always will be the ultimate level of love for wedding photography and why I have the passion for it.
No matter how hectic, stressful and crazy things get with all the ups and the downs, knowing that this couple hired me and invested their trust and money in me is enough to give me that extra mileage to keep going.
Passion doesn’t stop just with the wedding day. It’s not just about taking photos. We all know that we wear multiple hats when it comes to being your own boss and running a wedding photography business.
When you’re dealing with some of these other matters, it’s important to have the same level of drive and commitment. Having to cull through thousands of images or having to optimize your website with SEO. Maybe it’s having to make that effort to go to a networking event or putting together a styled shoot.
Don’t just see the trees but also the forest. Don’t just look at what’s ahead of you but also what’s going to be coming down the pipeline. Work on your business, not within your business.
It’s all great when things are going well and you’re getting the inquiries. Your income every single month is roughly where you want it to be. You’ve had this incredible summer and you can afford to have a pretty poor winter or offseason.
When things are going well, of course, you’re passionate about wedding photography. But what happens when things take a nosedive? You’re having to do something you don’t want to do or maybe you’re having a difficult wedding or clientele situation. That’s really where we dig deep and use our passion to get us over the hump.
One of the most important take-home messages is having attainable goals. I talked about that in episode 99, that you need to have something attainable as a goal that fits within your lifestyle.
Don’t have things that are unrealistic. Because once you start lacking goals or creating unattainable ones, that’s where your passion starts to take a dip.
For some of us, we begin with all the passion in the world, with goals and visions about how our business is going to be. But perhaps we don’t quite get to where we envisioned and as a result, our passion slowly withered away.
Then it becomes a cyclical loop that you never get out of and that’s the worst-case scenario. You have the passion for it in the beginning. But then you start to lose it because your business isn’t successful.
And because your business isn’t successful, you’ve become less passionate about wedding photography. Then that cycle repeats. Because you’re less passionate about wedding photography, your business will never become successful.
At a certain point, if you are not passionate anymore and you’re not giving that extra effort, your business will never be successful. So while passion is a key ingredient in a wedding photography business, it has to be combined with a few others for you to be successful.
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