Friday, January 15, 2010

Are There Too Many Wedding Photographers Shooting Wedding These Days: Food For Thought Friday

Good Afternoon Everybody,

A couple of days ago, I saw a Skribit suggestion come across asking, "Are there too many wedding photographers out there shooting weddings these days?" What a thought provoking question? 

Frustrated - iStock_000006538917XSmallI decided to really tackle this question and have been on the phone with  industry people, labs, album companies, and photographers for most of the day.  My findings and my conclusions could fill several pages of this blog so the plan is to break it into several posts. I really want to get your opinions and create some active feedback in the comment section below.

Today I'm posting some of the more SHOCKING comments I heard in my interviews.  What's your reaction - be part of the conversation - it's important!!!

Most thought provoking comments so far:

  • “The wedding profession is going through its biggest disruption ever!”

  • "The market is just inundated with new photographers."

  • "Out of 300 weddings photographed at a very popular wedding venue, only 5-6 photographers showed up more that once!"

  • "There are mass quantities of mediocre "Crap" out there these days masquerading as wedding photography!"

  • "Budgets are half what they used to be."

  • "It's impossible to survive as a wedding photographer only these days!"

  • "Wedding photography is broke!"

  • "Male + Over 50 = No work!"

  • "It's no longer about a photographer's reputation, it's all IMAGE - it's all about being hip and cool."

Kind of a wake-up call for the industry, isn't it? What I read here speaks to the "death-knell" of wedding photography as we've known it.  What are your thoughts?

I'm going to pick this up again next week. It looks like "gloom and doom" but I promise a peek at a somewhat silver lining over the next few days.  I can't wait to see and hear your thoughts, impressions, and realities as you face this upcoming year. PLEASE POST your comments below.

__________________________________________________

Hey gang, that's it for me today. I've got a huge project I'm working on over the weekend for one of our best clients and it looks like it's going to be kind of fun to put together.

We need to produce 8 banners 4 ft x8 ft with an Olympic theme for a big Bar Mitzvah I’m photographing next weekend.  I'll share with you some of the challenges and results of the project next week.

Everybody have a great weekend and I'll see you on Monday, all the pixels willin',

-David

69 comments:

  1. In any industry there are good and bad, in most area's of business there are a glut of others fighting for trade. How many car repair garages are there in one town? Dozens, which one do you use to repair your car? the one that did a good job last time, the one that others recommend because they have had good service, the one that is a member of a quality assured organization.
    The same rule applies in wedding photography, I dont worry about what others are doing, I worry about what I do, what others say about me, what kind of service I offer, was my last wedding my best?
    The shoot and burn guy's will alway's be there, make sure you are better than them.

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  2. In '07 I shot 29 weddings, '08 was 12, and '09 was a lousy 4! And all the while my work is actually getting better and better. I know the economy is a factor, but I also know people are still getting married. So, at least half the problem is the glut of photographers. And many of them are good. My problem is with the truly awful photographers who muddy the waters by going pro far too early.

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  3. I will comment from the point of view of one of the new photographers. I agree that every mom or dad with a camera is trying to do weddings, but is every mom and dad with a camera trying to do it right? With research into what to do to take care of the couples needs, and not just a quick way to make a buck? That has good and bad. One they might not ever shoot again so its a one time shot, but the bad is that couple hopefully will only get married once, and now a professional photographer has lost the opportunity to give them a quality service.

    I cant wait for this series to continue! Some would say i am going to slow in my research, and reading. I have not even shot my first wedding yet as i feel i am not ready. I read, read, read, and shoot, shoot, shoot. Some would say i am wrong in my approach and that i should just run out and do it, but i cant think that way. I look at it like being a mechanic (and that is what I am) I wouldn't go out and offer a repair service without knowing what I'm doing, and have the right tools to do it. I need to plan and be able to offer a professional service. Maybe I'm wrong, maybe I'm right. We shall see. The one thing i will say is that i have found because i am one of the many many new photographers out there people do not take me seriously in any way. In some cases ignore me.

    I just started reading this Blog, and i am hooked. Thank you so much!

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  4. David,
    We hung our photography shingle out back in 2007 with the intention of being available light/location only senior shooting. I must say the last two years have been more education than income. I am fortunate not to have to rely on a second income at this time but one never knows.
    I am not a purist but feel one should not sell themselves as a "professional" without the skill set to match. The adage of the more you know leads to knowing you have much more to learn is as true in photography as any.
    Second shooting a wedding a couple of months back has wet my whistle to be a part of others lives to bring them joyful memories. The education continues!
    DPT is one of the five blogs that I keep up with daily and do appreciate your offering to us fledglings.
    BTW, your DWC in GRR was fantastic!

    Doug Peek

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  5. I am a 60-year-old male, recently retired. I've been an amateur photographer for 35+ years, and in the past few years did some weddings for friends for free. Produced prints and an album, gratis. I enjoyed it, but have no illusions that a real professional wouldn't have done much better.

    I say "real" professional because I recently took a wedding photography course at a photographic store. It was full of people who barely knew an f-stop from a shutter speed, but were holding themselves out to be wedding photographers. They were go-getters, and I have no doubt they'll get all the $500 weddings they want. Now that people are taking pictures with their cell phones, I think the lower end and even the middle of the wedding photography business have been significantly devalued by consumers. I suspect really talented photographers would not be in competition with this, because they're aiming at the high end market, where people are less likely to settle for snapshots. For photographers who are trying to build a business and improve their skills, however, it will be a big problem.

    I laughed when I saw the comment, "Male + Over 50 = No work!" I was having a conversation with a young lady recently, and offered the opinion that the wedding photography business seems to be tailor-made for women. "Sure!" she said. "Women understand the dream." And I think there's something to that. I did not spend my teenage years thinking about my wedding. As a result, there's nothing instinctive about what I do when I shoot a wedding. I plod through it. I carry a little list of must-have shots. For instance, did you know that it's important to get a picture of the bride's and groom's parents? Who'd-a thought it?

    This looks like a very interesting topic, and I'm looking forward to reading more.

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  6. I really can't wait for the rest. Sad part is so far I think you are right. I will tell you this is not just a wedding photographer issue. All aspects of photography have the same turmoil. Curtis Wallis

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  7. David, I mentioned this briefly to you when you were here in Des Moines this summer. I've noticed a zillion "new" wedding photographers in the area in the last several years. It seems now that anybody that can afford a digital SLR is now a wedding photog. And I've seen some of their work, not very good to me. I only do weddings part time and I'm glad I have a good day gig as there is no way you could make a living here doing just wedding photography. I get my jobs mostly by word of mouth and the brides know they are going to get quality work and good service from me. But many young brides just don't care, they want cheap, and the economy isn't helping things either. I believe eventually alot of these young photogs will get weeded out eventually. We are in a transition stage and we can only hope it gets better.

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  8. I see it as a challenge. Besides myself, there are three other wedding photographers starting. And there are probably more I have not met yet. It is all about learning and then what I can I do to make myself stand out. How about consistency? I think that should count for something too.

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  9. I can't help wonder if this isn't true for everyone involved in the service industry. Competition is always fierce, whether you are a photographer, gardener or cook.
    300 weddings, that tells me a LOT of people are still getting married. Are the number of weddings up?
    There will always be 'fly-by-night' organisations. There are photographers who are making their business a success.
    Running your own business is always risky. Even the guy with the corner shop has to work hard to keep things going. I am sure he hears a lot of negative things as well.

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  10. I don't think it's just wedding photographers. Photography in general. More people can pick a DSLR for a small amount of money and take pictures, for little other costs. So everyone is trying to have a go. There are more glamour, press, paparazzi and stock shooters out there as well now. With all those extra people selling pictures for next to nothing it's makes it difficult to compete at realistic prices. As one poster above mentioned, he done a wedding for free, taking an income away from another working pro.

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  11. David that was my question, btw... (Anthony)

    For myself the industry landscape has certainly changed. It seems the industry is going somewhere but nobody really knows...

    What needs to happen in my opinion is that it needs to be regulated to the extent that a "wedding photographer " needs to be commissioned from the state board w/ a license. This way all your people that shoot on auto and TTL can be put out of business:))

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  12. I say good luck to anyone who wants to give wedding photography a go and believes they can cut it. It is, after all, how I started out 3 years ago, and I suspect many other photographers who go on to make successful careers at it.

    But it isn't long before the reality kicks in and you realise that to make a reasonable living in this business you need to be shooting maybe 30 weddings a year and charging £1,500 per wedding, and to bring in this level of work you really do need to have some talent.

    Not just photography skills either, but also good "people" skills and business acumen, I would say in equal measure.

    It is for this reason that many newcomers in the market do not shoot more than a few weddings.

    I personally do not feel threatened by new competition. There will always be couples who are happy to take a chance with the service they get in the "new entrant" end of the market and who fully understand they are they are getting budget service and quality.

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  13. With the economy as impacted as it has been lately, there are individuals with limited budgets who simply want the day documented. Perhaps, they would go for a high-end image product if money were available. This certainly impacts the industry.

    We could not afford a photographer on our day some 30+ years ago so we treasure the family snapshots taken and given to us. They can generate the pleasant memories just as well as a uber-quality formal or photo-journalistic image.

    As such there is room for a wide range of photographers, prices, and skills. Many variables affect the choice of the couple. Many newbies will fade into the background long before they become a serious threat to competent photographers when marrying couples know enough to determine the quality level of photo images that they want taken on their special day.

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  14. Our local newspaper ran a article from the BBB in the last two years. They have the most complaints on the so called wedding professional photographers. They are not delivering what they promise.

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  15. A major part of the problem are the brides. They dont know what they want, what is good or what is bad, and they want a full days shooting for nothing.
    A recent bride told me she did not want the old fashioned look lineups ect but more candid reportage style, when she sees the proofs the first question is "Where is uncle tom with aunt rita, why no group shots? ect.
    They also dont understand the workflow involved in digital photography thinking your fee is just for 30 pics in an album that only took 4 hours.

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  16. I'm not going to lie, I have had a lot of clients tell me they choose me because they did not "want some old guy and everyone else is not very good" I try to hint that the older photographers are GOOD because they have been doing it the longest, but right now you are right, youth, image, and photojournalism are what younger clients are looking for.

    As for the enormous competition, Good thing about all the people on Craigslist doing super cheap weddings is all their photos and websites look similarly crappy, so when someone hits yours it's like having the worst band in the world open for you.

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  17. hmmm interesting topic. As I have only shot two weddings for family & friends and do not intend to shoot weddings. i plan on growing my craft to only include children,families, seniors and T&I shots.I am continually learning,studying,practicing & more. Am I the best?..no do I intend to be one of the best? yes!
    This topic makes me wonder. How did all of you start out? As pro's. Are you meaning to tell me you did not learn and grow from any of your shoots? Are you saying it is impossible to dream of being a professional photographer.In other words we are sorry there are no more room for newcombers in this profession. Did you never study books upon end to figure out how to get better?
    I believe people pay for what they get. I would not charge an arm & a leg for wedding photography because I am not skilled enough. Even though i run my camera on full manual mode always. Did all of you start your prices at the very top of the charts?
    Why do we visit David's site. For his fabulous pictures?(of course..wink) or is it to soak in a little of his knowledge.
    Give new photographers a chance to learn & grow. As long as they are trying to do that.Ansd as long as you are continually growing your craft. you will succeed no matter how many of us are out there.
    Love your blog by the way David!

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  18. This is more of a question than a comment, but how much does reputation count in terms of a wedding photography business growing or not? I know a number of photographers who have a great reputation, and are recommended from friend to friend. I guess the challenge is getting to this point though?

    I do think you have to sell the right image to potential clients though, and in some way work out the best approach so that they realise the value they are getting. Whether this is turning up with the best albums available, or having a great website, something needs to make you stand out from the competition.

    I've enjoyed reading these post and comments, it's a fascinating insight into the industry!

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  19. @Danielle,

    "I believe people pay for what they get. "

    The problem is people are paying for a competent wedding photographer and they are not getting it, and then are usually very disappointed.

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  20. some interesting comments and many valid ones, Yes the whole photography business is going through a transition and technology has played a big part but from my point of view we have to stop blamming digital for all the problems that have surfaced. I hear this so often its getting old , good photographers who are good business people will survive .

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  21. @ annonymus,
    yes I completely agree with that point but then it is the clients responsibility to do some checking out of photographers so they do get quality. IMHO. Checking out their website,seeing if there are referrals, asking questions etc.
    But then again it is the photographers responsibility to tell them what they will get with the shoot, what to expect.
    If it were my wedding and I was on a budget. Which right now i am on a tight budget. i would do my research.
    I think there is a need for both markets. High end and low end. I loved the comment about being liscensed to be a photographer. I agree. I am also a hairstylist and I had to take a grooling test to get a liscense. It seems like David has a great clientelle. Why is that? Why is he so successful. great pictures, great business skills, very giving ( look at his blog). I am aspiring to become a photographer that can hold my own like him. Is the business changing? you bet. Will it push us to work harder and smarter. You bet. And Im still learning all I can.GOt a long way to go but enjoying it.
    Man, I have a lot to say. lol. i guess its because today is my B-day and I am feeling old.lol.

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  22. Welcome to the law of supply and demand. When established photographers started asking (and getting) four-digit and in some cases five-digit dollar amounts for high-end weddings, the high prices began attracting shooters who otherwise might have chosen other photo specialties.

    Meanwhile, the number of people getting married was NOT increasing at the same rate (despite gay-marriage laws and such) and the result was an oversupply of "product," causing the equilibrium point to move downward along the supply/demand curve.

    It's going to be tough to recover, too, because for most couples wedding photography is a one-time purchase. Presumably many buyers are satisfied with their "budget" wedding photos... but it's not as if those who are NOT are going to say, "Hmph, next time I get married I'll budget a little more on the photographer!"

    In short, the gravy train is off the track, and not likely to get back on anytime in the near future. Good luck, wedding shooters, but the numbers seem to be against you.

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  23. I'm going to come at this from a couple of different angles. I started out doing only portrait photography work and have now added wedding photography to my list of work I do. I have only taken wedding photos of family/friends in the past and was just taking photos because photography is something I enjoy to begin with, basically I gave them as a gift to the bride & groom. But now, I'm offering myself up as a wedding photographer and most importantly, I feel, I'm being upfront about my experience. I'm guessing that people are hiring me though because I do have impressive photos, I've checked my competition and I'm only about $100 cheaper than a handful of them. I've been very proactive in marketing myself and I believe it's made a huge difference. I'm also seeing that there are an abundance of people getting married and in the market I'm in, I don't believe there are enough photographers for it. I think that combination has helped me as well.

    I think brides & grooms especially all have a different view on photography. I wasn't a photographer when I got married and as a result, I choose someone in my budget, that seemed "good enough". I can basically said that I got what I paid for, but I honestly didn't know enough about photography to really know the difference between good, mediocre and bad photography. I'm guessing the majority of brides and grooms are the same way and just decide for themselves if the photos in a portfolio are good enough for them or not.

    I think like as in any business, you are going to have ups and downs. If you have a mentality of don't give up and have the means to support yourself during the down times, I believe it will help you in the end to be a successful photographer who doesn't give up in a down time.

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  24. Two types of new photographers

    1. New photographers who just want to make a buck and are not interested in learning to get better as. A business owner and as an artist.

    2. New photographers who are always trying to learn and grow as a business owner and as an artist.

    Digital has made it easier for both, but it will not help the first one survive! Unfortunately digital made it easier to make #1 make it harder for #2 but the harder the road the more I learn!

    I as a new photographer was a bit let down by all of the above posts. All great comments, but it paints a bit of a gloomy picture. I think in the end it comes down to the drive and motivation of the new photographer, this photog will not be discouraged. I spend all my time trying to improve through reading and practice.

    Someone said above. That anyone using auto and TTL should be put out of buisness. I respect your opinion, but don't tell Joe Mcnally that. He will admit that he likes TTL and has used Auto at times. That's a bit harsh.

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  25. There's a lot of different things affecting the wedding industry, some examples:

    1. the economy
    2. the overabundance of people that "think" they can shoot a wedding on "auto" with on board head on flash (I cringe...)
    3. People being satisfied with "snapshots"...think about it, EVERYONE has a family member with a decent camera right? And honestly, shooting DIGITAL is a lot less expensive then film and there's just no limit of shots that you can take ...out of 100 shots, you are bound to have a few decent ones right?!?

    I think where most photographers are going to stand out is how good they are with PHOTOSHOP! You will need to stand out not only with your photography work (getting it "right" in camera) but also , your photo editing skills must SHINE!!!! I don't mean "saving" bad shots here, I'm talking about taking a beautiful picture to begin with and turning it into a work of art in Photoshop! If you don't want to learn Photoshop, you misewell forget it! It's a ONE PACKAGE deal my friends....

    However, I see it as a challenge! I honestly believe that the better you get, your work will prove itself, whether you have a degree or not!

    I DO NOT agree that a Photographer should be required to have a Certification of some sort in their hands to be able to shoot a Wedding. I don't have a degree in photography cause I CAN'T AFFORD $50,000 worth of debt for a 2 year degree! I'm sorry but the education system here in the USA is making it impossible for me to go to school and put my entire family into debt because of it! We struggle enough already without taking on a school loan! It would be nice to control the "bad apples" out of the crop but it's up to the consumer to do some research about the photographer. If I were to go back to school for anything, it would be for a Business Degree of some sort.. running a business takes a lot more then just your knowledge of your camera.....

    I'll be honest, I didn't hire a photographer when I got married when I was 19 years old, I honestly didn't give it any thought at all! Now that I'm 30, I look back and I regret it so much but I didn't know any better! All I have is snapshots and a handful are just "O.K". I think at the time, I honestly would have considered a "just starting out" $500 photographer!

    I've heard a lot of people tell me DO NOT charge $500 to shoot a wedding, you'll make the consumer thinking that you aren't that great...but I don't have a portfolio built up as a wedding photographer yet so how am I suppose to start?

    The ideal situation for me would be to learn hands-on from a Wedding Photographer like David (hint hint! lol) without them thinking and feeling like I might become a "threat" to their future business! I have talked to several photographers in small towns and everyone of them admitted that they didn't want to hire another photographer because of fear of lost of business if that person should leave or start a business of their own..they kept it in the family! They don't like competition!

    Anyway, I have a lot of work cut out for me and I'm not giving up! There's money to be made in photography, it's a matter of who's going to survive through it all :-).

    Honestly, I do work hard to learn but I also leave it into the hands of my Lord and Savior..by that I do not mean that I'm going to do nothing but sit on my behind and hope that all the work fall on my lap but rather that I have him as my support.

    David, I think you really hit a string in many of us here and I look forward to hearing from you again in regards to this topic!

    HTH,
    Carole

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  26. Another force against Wedding Photographers surviving independently is the appearance in recent years of the regional internet wedding photography companies like Bella Pictures. They are agressively marketing themselves by linking to major wedding reception sites like Marriott hotels and others. Check out the websites of Marriotts in the DC area, Chicago or San Francisco, where Bella has established a presence so far, and you'll find a link to this company.

    Many of these newer photographers mentioned in the previous posts here work for Bella, who will hire almost anyone, though they will deny it. With the Wedding Photographers being independent business owners over the years, the prospect of working for someone else, like Bella, should concern not only the photographers, who will make less money, but trade groups like the Professional Photographers of America(PPA) and Wedding and Portrait Photographers International (WPPI). These groups consist mainly of, and are supported by, independent photographers. The only way to survive against Bella on one end, and all the mediocre part-timers and wannabees on the other end, is smart, aggressive marketing guerilla-style, with a committment to service, quality and a business image better than both.

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  27. Well I have to say this is the same whining about the cheap guy that has been going on for years. Nothing stays the same (except maybe the whining)... If folks were truly professional photographers (heavy on the professional) then maybe they would have enough smarts and gumption to compete. If you don't like the competition then get out. The market place will take care of the poor quality... but let's be honest... how many of us married folks have pulled out our own wedding albums lately? I'm around a lot of younger adults and they do not value the "traditional" album (let alone a traditional wedding) like we have been used too. They would rather have an "experience" then the keepsake of pictures... and statistically they figure they will have at least 2-3 marriages in their life time (we may not like that but hey that is what some are thinking).

    So let me offer a suggestion... study the culture and get up and get away from the photo magazines that show only they "trendy" stuff (because come on admit it most of the "professionals" can't do that stuff under the real pressure of a real wedding and not hired models). Find out what your folks want then go deliver it. Stop sitting on you rears waiting for the phone to ring or to get a referral -- no one owes you the right to be a photographer... you have to earn it EACH DAY...

    I know several so called professionals (10+ or 30+ years in the business) that shoot crap. The same old stale stuff or the half way executed shots that they are trying to imitate.

    Let me give you an example from another poster here... said something like the bride wanted photojournalism style but when the pictures came back she asked where are the group shots... well guess who blew it... not the bride but the photographer... anticipate what your clients want... do what they say but then go the extra mile, especially now that we are digital... I know too many photographers that take the "listed" shot and then go get a bite to eat...

    Again the current culture is interested in an experience... you have to sell their dream and that you can capture it....

    But come on folks stop whining about the other guy... it really doesn't help you... and please don't look for some government entity to "license" photographers... talk about ruining the profession...

    Also one other thing (as if I haven't caused enough problems)... stop with the holier than thou attitude that photography is so hard. The technical aspects of it today are really not that hard to master... but it is whether or not you can match your "artistic" eye to that of your client...

    Just think of the art world... look at the wide styles and techniques and talent out there... but there too are many whiners in the art field... they whine about people using cheap pastels instead of expensive oils, or heaven forbid someone does digital art... they are driving the prices down and it really isn't real art anyway... too many people with a computer think they can create art and sell it..... (does this all sound familiar)....

    Anyway.... just thinking and venting all at the same time...

    Have fun...

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  28. I have found several people that are not photographers but are upset with their wedding pictures. They realize that it could be what they pay but that does not seem right. Of course, I also hear "Man, that photographer was not nice" or "he never said a thing the whole time". Since I started out, I have work hard to become better and yes I can say that I am better than when I started I also believe that I go out my way to provide the best experience for that wedding. Whether it be a wedding I shot for free, $250 or $2000, I provide the same professionalism that I did before. Even though I and other photographers can see a difference since I started, those clients I had at the beginning are thrilled and still give praise. I believe when you add excellent professionalism to your client, when the client looks back at those images they remember. It more than just great images (they should always be good) but it also your presentation and the way we treat the clients. They are paying for that as well.

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  29. I'm sure there are a lot of people who call themselves photographers who shouldn't... and are satisfied with collecting minimal fees.

    My sister and I started our business last year. In preparation for our first wedding, we joined a professional photography group that meets weekly, went to seminars (thank you David Ziser), checked out books by the stacks from the local library, photographed anyone and everyone we knew for free, studied three hours a day, engaged two professional photographers who agreed to be our mentors, and bought professional equipment. We are busier than we ever thought we would be at this point, and feel very blessed to have so much business.

    We improve with every booking, and are always trying to set ourselves apart by offering distinctive and unique products.

    If you are worried about unprepared, low-skilled, cheap shoot and burn photographers, don't! They will take the low paying customers that you don't want. If you are really good, you will get what you need. I know the economy is a challenge for people in all walks of life right now. Stay creative and innovative. If you worry more about the money you aren't making than the progress you can be making, you will find yourself losing ground. The economy will come around, and there will always be brides ready to pay what you are truly worth.

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  30. In most fields life is tough. Nothing is easy, and everyone competes with someone. If you want to survive you've got to work, generally 12-16 hour a day, every day, there is no free lunch. Quit complaining and get to work.
    Dave

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  31. Didn't read others...
    I think its DIGITAL to blame and access to gear. Back in the day, buying a Bronica (or Hassenblad) with a quantum head the about 30rolls of film was OUT OF THE QUESTION, since consumers really didn't know WTF medium format film even tasted like. Today, you go into B&H (not to give them a bar rep) and for about $5,000 you get D700 with 18-200 glass, sb900, photoshop and few books on "how to use photoshop" or canon :) AND call them selves a photographer or "photojournalist". So far, every "PJ" style job I've seen, EXCEPT ONE, was C R A P. The one specific that I am referring to was shot by a guy who actually has been shooting for over 20yrs and learned to adapt and change his styles on the run. Job looks great before processing and SPEACHLESS after it.

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  32. I just did a search on "BLOGGER tm" link, which I followed by clicking on one of the above 'posters' link. The number of hits on this one blog site found by searching for: Occupation > Photographer, yielded 3,510,000 hits! I would think that some of these folks will be from other parts of the world, but suspect the majority of these people who have listed their occupation / job as: 'photographer' would be living / working in the USA. How can the world, let alone the USA or UK for instance support all these "photographers"? When you look at a few of their websites {if they even have photography business sites), you find almost all are under 30 yrs. of age and are in the game because "photography is my passion".......... You have nothing to fear from most of these folks as they will have to get another job or keep the full time one they have now, as their "passion" will not be enough to win back repeat customers or referrals. They will fade away but will be replaced by more young folks who just "want to give the members of the public treasured photos", taken by an 'artiste' with a CANON Rebel DSLR equipped with a kit lens only. Couples mainly plan to stay married "forever" or at least most of the ones that actually get married and require the services of a pro shooter. They will certainly get what they pay for, but then it is too late. The new age DIGITAL pro / passion fueled shooters spring up like mushrooms because digital SLRs are so cheap & available to everyone. They all want to mine the gold fields of the pro wedding / portrait / seniors market. They don't need a wet darkroom, access to a quality lab / printer, no actual office / studio physically needed. No lights or extra lens or backup gear ect. or insurance or contracts or indemnity clauses, you get the drift? Just a CANON Rebel with kit lens and maybe a Fong/Dong for the YongNou $28.00 strobe they just ordered off of FleaBay. They won't get any more repeat jobs from the wedding couple (or anyone else who looks at the "album") and they won't last long, but the hard working pro shooter that at least knows the difference between an f. stop and a truck stop will have lost out on that job to one of the never ending crop of "newbies" pro shooters that are now everywhere. I am not whining or complaining as I am NOT a pro shooter anymore and have no vested interest in the genre. Just commenting on a trend that most of the "pro shooters" will not be able to stop, slow down, regulate or control ( the tsunami of cheap digital cameras)!!!! There is no answer except to be one of the 'high end of town' "shooters", that already has the reputation amongst the country club set, or to do a few weddings on weekends but still have a "regular" job to feed the kids & pay the mortgage.

    The genie is out of the bottle and some of these 3,510,000 "photographers" have read at least one book, subscribed to ProWeddingShooter.com, and paid for at least one training session with a real "light man". The ones who are still chasing their dream / passion, will start putting up URLs, web sites, blogs, and hanging their shingles on the front mailbox of their parents house ( where they still live & have their ProStudio set up in dads garage and or basement). David, you guys will survive & continue, but most pro wedding shooters are gonna be buried under the new tidal wave of "passionate" pros who will take most of your business and leave a shoddy trail of "SnapFish" produced wedding albums..... Maintain the rage, folks

    Curt H. Queensland,AUSTRALIA

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  33. Wow! I'm wondering if we should remember the phrase "We have met the enemy and they are us." As a preacher's kid I have witness a great number of weddings over the years and I really question if this is really a new problem. Relatives and friends have been taking wedding pictures instead of "professional" photographers for years. Budgets have always been tight and instamatic camera with their magic cubes were always around. Someone would buy the film and pay to have it processed and give the "photographer" $20 for their time. Those who wanted better quality pictures and who could afford it hired the "professional" photographer because they understood the importance of the memory preserving photographs to be taken. You see I think most people don't understand how important those wedding images will hold for them especially when those memories haven't happened yet. Those shoot and burners out there certainly don't have the perserving of the wedding memories in mind or they wouldn't being put those images on the type of disk that most around my area do.

    As the technology has improved providing better cameras and picture quality to those non-professional family, friends, and weekend warriors, it has also improved on the professional side as well. Just as in the film days the abilities available to the "professional" to provide a higher quality product still exist and most of the non-professionals will not invest the time, money, or effort needed, let alone do the marketing to promote that kind of quality product. A couple of the above comments have touch on this already. I can understand the concerns because we all feel the pinch. But really, most of the people I know have been married more than once and several as many as 5 or 6 times making me think that weddings should be on the increase with more protential for repeat customers. Seriously we need to be willing to do what the shoot and burners don't and won't. We need to market the differences that we as professional have over the non-professionals. And we need to educate our protential customers as to the importance of their wedding images in our marketing program.

    So I guess my point is this, there's nothing new under the sun. Same basic problem just different technology and it's not going to go away. So while there maybe plenty of places to put the blame it just may be the answers lay in us the professionals. Liscencing hasn't fixed the problems in the real estate, hair dressing, plumbing, or any other professional service. There are plenty of bad apples found there as well. Don't bark at the competition. Rise above it!

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  34. Just a thought for all of you out there: Do you really think most of your clients can tell a 'professional' photo from a 'that's really nice' photo? I recently found out that most clients are more then happy with a 'that's really nice' photo. When I look at these pics, I see unsharp pics, boring angles, colours that don't match reality. And still the client is satisfied with them. Maybe the problem isn't the quality of our pics, but is our vision of what a good wedding album should look like. Maybe we should look into added value more? Meaning integration of photo and video. Not just being a 'specialist' on the weddings day, but also someone who can make the couple at ease, relaxed and guide them through the day.

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  35. WOW!!! I LOVE this discussion. The sad part is we know several really good, formally successful professionals out of business after many years of running profitable, successful studios. These guys and gals DID continue to learn, take classes, attend seminars and conventions, place their egos on the line in print competitions to see how they measured against other photographers, followed blogs like David's.... But unfortunately, they simply got "lost" in the sea of new photographers. They couldn't be found or survive with photography as their single income as they had for many years. Very sad.

    My hope is that you stop charging $500, $1,000 or even $2,000 for your expertise or skill set, time, and sweat while you learn your craft. Not to mention editting and then there is the time spent in Photoshop and Lightroom. It's time to charge a fair competive price. How much is your time away from family worth? Are you really making any money if you only charge these lower prices? Does it fit into your business plan? Are you planning for the future or just looking at today?

    If you feel you don't have the experience or expertise to charge the higher prices then shadow another photographer until you feel comfortable. No one in town wants the competition then drive an hour or two down the road to the next community. Practice, practice, practice hon your skills shooting friends and family. Dave has oftened talked about his triangle of friends (all from different locations 2 hour distance)that shared, competed and helped each other in the "early" days for their businesses.

    Just remember; In the future it will be much harder to charge $5,000 if all your referrals are coming from $500 brides!

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  36. I've always thought that its the hacks and wanna-be's that make me look so good...

    I do agree, the market is flooded and I think that will be the reaction of 99% of photographers out there.

    The big question is, how does the invested pro show themselves vs blend in with the pack o hacks???

    The answer is simple...marketing, network, sales abilities and really understanding what perceived value is all about.

    I know that we have a very specific market "destination weddings" and just about everybody is ready to give away the farm to go "work on vacation" when the sad reality is, that phrase couldnt be further from the truth out there. I think that our true fans out there really know what we have invested and will go to any end to make sure they book us. We didnt wake up yesterday with that kind of following either...years and years of experience and working the market to get to that level. At the end of the day, if you can ask yourself if you are working to get to that level, I'm almost sure its going to be apparent to your clients and that is going to make the big big difference!

    my 2 cents.

    "$5,000 if all your referrals are coming from $500 brides"

    If a bride compares the $500 photos and looks at mine, there is going to be light years of comparison in the final results. If that bride thinks otherwise, we don't want her as a client, because expectations are all jacked up and we are going to be working with a very very uneducated client...That $500 wedding certainly has its place in our marketplace and we welcome it!

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  37. One of the biggest problems is with people who do not have unique enough qualities to stand out from the mass of available photographers these days. The standard MO of a new wedding photographer is to put up a site, maybe get some TFP models for example shots or use shots they got from being a second shooter. Study up on basic SEO techniques, and post like mad to craigslist. Sure, these people will get some jobs, most certainly from people that you probably don't want as customers anyway.

    I see others doing the social networking path and having thousands of friends, tweeting like mad, and wondering why work isn't flooding in. Well, who are all these friends? Other photographers, not potential clients, so where did that get you?

    Moving up the ladder I see people dropping hundreds of dollars a month to advertise on The Knot, offering good packages, and being able to back it up with good work, and guess what, they are working full time and making a decent living.

    Another group is one that is actively going to venues, networking with business groups, meeting and talking to as many people as possible, and guess what, they are getting jobs.

    In short, the people I see doing the most complaining are the ones who are not treating their business as a business. They do not market themselves properly, they do not network with the right people, they basically are not doing the things they need to do in order to make the phone ring. "If you build it they will come" does not apply to your website anymore. It is simply not enough to be good, be personable, and have a good website. Its about advertising and marketing and those who fail to do those things, fail to get business.

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  38. I disagree with those who blame the digital camera revolution without qualification.

    To me, the consumer has wrongly connected the "almost-guaranteed-technical-quality" in a photograph with skill.

    Simply making a camera foolproof does not create a skilled photographer, of any sort.

    AWACs don't automagically become good landscape photographers. Or commercial photographers. Or sports photographers. And so on.

    The buying public has made this assumption, because they do not believe there is a skill involved in photography.

    A well-focused, properly-exposed crappy image is just that. A crappy image. That has not changed since the days of sheet film.

    And those who say the market will shake itself out, I fear it will be too late when and if it does.

    Those who are skilled won't be able to wait and as a result, won't be there when the market corrects itself.

    regards.

    Lorne

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  39. Speaking of shooting ourselves in the foot... How many are giving the couple all of the images on DVD? With negatives, the real professionals would retain all of the negatives and copyrights. Now, due to pressure by the brides, it seems most photographers are folding and giving the negatives/DVD away. If it's your business, do you let the couple write your contract? Or, do you maintain control of your business and set the terms?
    Many/most/all of the newbies don't want the hassle of taking orders for additional photos and don't want to deal with producing an album. They most likely have a full time job in another industry and don't want to make additional time during the week for the extra work (and extra profits).
    I remember a photo seminar from a female photographer years ago. She was using Hasselblad equipment, studio lighting, and years of experience for proper posing techniques. When an aunt of the bride asked if she could shoot over the the pro's shoulder, the pro thought to herself, the aunt has amateur point & shoot 35mm while I have medium format and pro lighting. My quality is great and the aunt's will be so-so.
    At the reception, the aunt had gone to a one hour lab and was showing her photos. Ms. Pro Photographer asked to see them and commented to herself... "They are not as good, grainy, poor lighting, just not great photos. But, they are good enough."
    Many people find OK is good enough as long as they are not paying professional prices. But, as the hired pro, your images are expected to be great.
    Take control of our industry again, we set the rules, not the customer and the newbie shooters, and DON'T give away your services!

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  40. Dear David Z., LaDawn Z. & Matt ADCOCK,

    with your permission just a couple more comments then I am off to the beach. This discussion is really interesting to me as well as to LaDawn ( I will take the liberty to call you all by your Christian names, even though I have never had, what I know would be, the pleasure of knowing you all personally).

    With the posting by Matt (Del Sol Photography), this discussion has been certified “valid” and applicable because David Z., LaDawn & one of the most innovative unique folks now in the niche market of “high end” weddings, Matt Adcock, and I assume his wife Sol & amigo Vincent, have weighed into the 'fray'.

    I am not stroking anyone's ego(s) or trying to win any new friends by saying David Z. and 'Del Sol' are two of many pro shooters that will & have survived the digital revolution. The 'Del Sol' photo of the bride / groom chest deep in crystal clear waters taken in an amazingly “lit” cave / grotto is one of my favourites and one of the all time classic shots of this new form of wedding shoots. Don't know if Matt, Sol or Vincent was the shooter, (or all 3), but it will become a classic.

    There are lots of other great shooters in the world now also doing great work and I assume banking a bit of the cash their business's are generating.

    David Hobby, Kelby, McNally, Syl, Wiz Wow plus dozens of others and too many for me to try to name here. You folks will have no trouble surviving the economic crisis / downturn combined with the Digital Takeover of the wedding shooters industry. Your clients have seen your produced images over the years and you have your own followers/clients and they will generate new business for you all in the future.

    The average wedding shooter, I have to agree with LaDawn, will be unable to compete with the low priced new shooters flooding your market. It is sad, as she says, but the market will sort out the folks that can't rise to the top of this new industry. It is a new industry using brand new ever changing technology in an “olde world” profession of photographing weddings. Change or you will be gone....... As Matt posted here earlier, “The answer is simple... marketing, network, sales abilities and really understanding what the perceived value is all about......”

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  41. my last post on this topic, I promise....


    You can't compete with the “guy with a camera” at wedding shoots, as you can't undercut his fees. He either shoots for free, in order to build a portfolio and “good will”, or he is charging 'gas money rates' to cover his drive to the venue.
    He has NO overhead, equipment, staff, office, studio, insurance, lighting, marketing costs, etc. and certainly is not going to be regulated or controlled by any form of quality controls or “crap looking photo” police. Other than the old boys network of “pro photographers associations”, which have no real way to regulate anything, it is total anarchy in this new frontier and only the folks that are really good at all the aspects of running and promoting a good business will now survive. Being “passionate”, “artistic” and “striving through endless adversity & overcoming huge hurdles, etc.-etc..., will not be enough!

    That is life in the big city (certainly at least here in Queensland ) and if you don't at least learn how to shoot off camera lighting, you will sink into the pool of run & gunners. I cringe when I read about all the pro shooters that:
    “ Only use natural light in our artistic images, NO artificial strobes or off camera lighting for us, NOT even a reflector or scrim in OUR kits”.........

    To me, that just tells me the pro has no clue about lighting at all, has no intention of learning even the basics, does not own; let alone know how to read a light meter and still wants to compete and make a living by fulfilling “their dream of making the world a better place because of their artistic talents & flair with a 'kit lens”........ I now am fully retired, living on the Coral Sea / Great Barrier Reef, have the greatest wife / companion in the world, 4 parrots and the threat of a cyclone brewing up just north of us. One of the only “down sides” to living in the tropics of northern Queensland, but the folks in Haiti would gladly swap 'casas' with me anytime.
    David, thanks for the great Blog/Web site cum forum and all your free tips and sharing of your knowledge. You make the industry a better place and that makes you a real 'professional'.............

    For those few that have never seen a great photographers gallery, other than David Z.s' photos of course, click on Matt s “icon” in his above post and follow the link to “del Sol”. I do not own any stock or have any financial interest in his business, just think they are dynamic shooters/ as well as marketers-biz folks.
    Adios,
    Curt H.
    "el Condor loco” GRAPHIX
    Townsville, Queensland

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  42. The run and gun shooters aren't going away because another wave will follow once they are disenchanted and move on. So maybe embrace them as another revenue source. Face it as of late... there are a lot of $500 weddings that want pictures too.

    My brother in law was in the High End Salon business for awhile and was troubled by the low end "cheap" places underselling him. I told him don't lower your salon's standards but to open your own competition that caters to the cheap $30 haircut and $10 tan, you have not lowered your current standards but still benefit from both markets.

    Embrace the $500 shooters, If there is a reason you have been successful in the past then why not capitalize on it and farm that out in the form of:
    Mentor/coach/workshop for $
    They don't have the processing skills or equipment, offer your staff services for workflow $
    Templating, Designs, Rentals, etc.

    If they are going to be out there shooting brides that only can spend $500 anyway why not make a buck and maybe even improve the quality.

    Then brides with her $30 haircut and $10 tan get their $500 images are happy, you've managed to supplement your income with a part of the market you don't even cater to so everyone still gets what they want.

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  43. Funny the timing. Had a inquiry about a wedding last night. A small wedding about 80 people. Nothing fancy. Wanted a cd only wedding. I really hate doing that type package. It was on a off week so I sent over a reduced quote. $900.00 Which is cheap. Got back "thank you we have decided to pass. We recieved several quotes for 4 hours that were significatly lower than yours" Guys 4 hours work Then 2 hours editing for what $500. Crazy. Curtis Wallis

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  44. quote:

    Got back "thank you we have decided to pass. We recieved several quotes for 4 hours that were significatly lower than yours"


    this is my point...

    it seems the clients have begun to see the quality of the images between options as a wash, equal across the board... so they make decisions based solely or significantly on price.

    that is what the flood of AWACs have done to a certain degree.


    Lorne

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  45. Add to this weddings themselves are down. In some states they are at 80 year lows in wedding licenses being taken out. see this artical http://www.fox8.com/news/sns-ap-oh--marriages-minimized,0,3197664.story
    That and the wave of everyone with a digital camera. Plus when did the general public decided that photography over all is to expensive. In 1978 I worked in a studio that we charges $50 for an 8x10 if that is all you bought today with a full time studio I can only get $65 and in no way has that keep up with inflation.

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  46. I do find it very hypacritical sometimes when photographers complain about the new kids on the block doing weddings. Where did they start out I ask? If we didn't have new doctors starting out where would we be?
    I set up in business last year providing wedding and portrait photography. I've only a few weddings under my belt so far but a dozen in the diary for this year (with a lot more potential) and I've done a couple of dozen portrait sessions. I do things correctly, I use a light meter, camera on manual, have the correct equipment for the job, tell my clients exactly what they are going to get, show them albums and work I have previously done. If the wedding venue space permits I will also take softboxes down to use rather than a standard flash. We aren't all scam artists trying to make a quick buck! Some of us care about what we are trying to do and results we are providing for the clients. I like to meet my clients before I agree to undertake a wedding - I need to know that we will get on. I'm also good at the business side of things, I know about SEO, how to sell and how to be personable with a prospect. The 'old brigade' should lighten up. Times change, styles change, what the customer wants change. In thirty years time I am sure it will for me! I left a $70,000 job to move into professional photography. I won't make half of that this year, so I'm hardly making a quick buck!

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  47. A very close friend of mine Dave Pavol of Nashville , shared the material concerning this situation ... I personally do not know David Z however; I have much respect for his ability to Swim up stream and not tire!! .... I have been in the photographic world since 1969 when I graduated with a degree in photography ... Only to find out that many may have a formal education in this profession ,However ..... they are not aware of the concept of .... hard work and continious efforts which are needed for 7 days per week at a minimum of 10-12 hours per day to accomplish the Goals we personally have / had set for our selves..... Yes that is correct ... 41 years to this point in the profession of PROFESSIONAL PORTRAIT PHOTOGRAPHY.. NO other income... NO saftey nets.. NO wealth from a generation previous to us .. -0- Just a desire ... Nothing but God given input and direction...
    At the ripe old age of 30 we established some challenging goals for ourselves... After Studing with Ted Sirlin and Phil Heller of California we sat down and decided to establish a time frame to be Financially Independent.. ( A 30 Year Challange self prescribed ). We have studied with the very best in the profession and mostly in a one on one situation... All the way from Apple to Zucker..
    Wedding photography is and will always be a bread and butter situation along with High School seniors for the Photographer in portraiture...
    Today; there are many new comers to the profession which are not required to maintain the foundation of the old masters....
    True.... Times change and we all know the key comments... Simply Put; "Photography has and will continue changing each of us and everything around us" ... YOU have to decide if you wish to stay on the wheel until it rolls over you or get off before that happens by making plans for the Future...

    The Key is to make our profession ONE that is looked up to and appreciated .. As Other top Shelf Professions ... There is always going to be someone a little cheaper and a lot better than YOU ... So what ... YOU choose what , Where , and How you can accomplish what it is that you want to do and earn in the so called profession of choice... and that is where the Game begins... As someone wrote previously .. it is all marketing.... at the rate of 95 % marketing will accomplish another opporitunity to do another assignment .. and put the 5 % left toward the talentside of life .. This has always been amazing to me ....and understood... However what we and many of the successful others have done is to give 150 % to all areas of your Photographic life making of the creative images .. marketing the images to the sole buyer !!! their Images you created to education them.... The Client.... to make them aware of High Calibre Images... This now becomes simple sales....NOW they can share their Monies, comments , and values with all of Us in this Changing Profession...

    Remember some wonderful words left by one of our top talented Master Photographers ..
    "CHASE YOUR DREAMS ... not your Competition"..
    Thank You for allowing us to jot this short note to the People who Choose to understand it..
    Joseph Lust, Virginia Beach , Virginia
    P. S. we made the goal in 27 Yrs !!..

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  48. In a word YES! Half of the people who have no business shooting weddings are doing so because they lost a job and had a camera sitting on their dresser! Half of that half won't be in business this time next year, count on it! One bad wedding and you're out of business via word of mouth! Today's brides, half, only want cheap and cheaper. they want their "copyrights" and they want it cheap because Billy Bob is giving them away with his $700 package! We used to shoot a couple of dozen weddings a year, that's all we want, and now we can't even get that because of Ms. Clueless Bride! Cameras bought at Best Buy, prints made at Wal-Mart and no idea how to accomplish creativity with their skills, that's today's shoot & burn photographers and tomorrows fry cooks! I say to all of you do what I've done, start marketing yourself to photograph funerals, because there's not much difference between that and today's cheap brides! Here's to you shoot and burners, thanks for ruining a good business for us all!

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  49. There will ALWAYS be brides who want amazing pictures and an amazing experience on their wedding day. If the old school photographers refuse to adapt or up their game, then they're in trouble and frankly they should be.
    There is no longer room for mediocrity in the high end market.

    BTW. . .it's not just a digital vs. film thing. It's about light, style, personality, etc. Ziser has been taking awesome off-camera flash pictures for 30 years.

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  50. I retired from a storefront, by appointment portrait/wedding business at the end of 1995. I didn't have the fortitude to give up my "real job" with benefits and guaranteed weekly income. I have shot a few hundred wedding over the years from 1980 to 1995. I was considered the best game around at the time. Much of my work came from referrals. I had a very good senior business and did some events. I could just never step off the ledge. However, working two full time jobs was killing me and I had to give somethig up plus I had burned out. Over the last year working for Corporate America made me ask myself if there might be another future as a photographer. I live in rural North Georgia but previously served the Atlanta area as well as my home court. Before it was me and one other local photographer. I have been shooting digital for a few years so the technology curve has not been an issue. The commercial side of things had blown me away. There are so many Digital Debbies out there. I just turned 50 so if that in fact is an issue, then I'm screwed. It makes me want to throw up in my mouth to think about shooting and burning. I had some drugstore upload printing sone the other day just ot see what would happen. HORRIBLE!! But that is what Alvin Stewart's reputation would hinge on. I used to sell an 8X10 wedding candid on E Surface for $15 and was a couple of bucks higher than the other player. People paid it and I still got business. 14 years later $15 is at the top end of Atlanta pricing with very few exceptions. I'm already pretty much set up, getting LLC processed, setting up Website and eCommerce and now I'm quite concerned. I guess "shame on me" for not doing much more research. I thought I knew my old industry. I suppose we'll see if my reputation followed me.

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  51. I think over saturation is relevant in many industries besides photography - just take a look at your local supermarket and see the choices for breakfast cereal.

    Some famous photo dude once said that it doesn't matter if you shoot with a camera made 20 years ago or that your studio is a leaky barn - its the pictures that matter the most.

    On the other hand, the trick to being successful and having longevity in business is your marketing message.

    I'll be 50 some day soon, I'm not worried about my career in photography.

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  52. After 27 years, ( I worked for Van Frazier, Master Craftman PPofA for three years paying my dues and learning the craft)I am one of those young guy...51 years young...about 3 years ago it hit me "Where are all these photographers coming from? At first, I was bitter...brides were choosing fluff over substance, cool vs experience...after about 3 months of this brooding...I realized that I need to step up my game and I did...Thank you to all these new photographers that woke a giant from a gentle slumber...I am having a great time, love shooting but more so love this business environment...I can't get complacent and with my experience I can run circles around the young dogs (Think Brett Favre)I take care of myself more than ever, hitting the gym, took up Jiu Jitsu...there has never been a more exciting time in our industry than now...and those bitching about their perception of whats going on...wake up!

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  53. After 1281 weddings, from 1976 to 2006,I took some time off from weddings as my Mon thru Friday Portrait business is so strong. The wedding clients built my baby, family and seniors business,as it really comes down to personality. Yes we must produce the finest product available (at least to our ability which must grow daily), however client buy from people not businesses. Building rapport means buying clients for a lifetime. I live in Maine, VERY low income state of less than 1 million people - yet booked $5000 to $10,000 wedding packages, with decent work, great marketing and merchandising, excellent followup, VIP contact, referrals. YES there are more part time photographers up here than lobsters - so I do the opposite of what they offer and I prosper. But my personality (I have been told) is the main reason I book weddings. Humor, confidence, humility, politness,manners, smiles, honesty and sincerity - as importnat as f-stops and shutter speeds - are people skills. I still accept an occasional wedding - I love them,but at age 52, I am too pooped by Saturday, after a full week of sessions. So if I AM going to take one, I an going toknock myself out to make sure these people are thrilled - by charging enough.

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  54. WOW!! I understand all the bad feelings but still. I don't do weddings, I'm still learning. I did dive off the cliff and am going for my Bachelors of Science in Photography because I want to know all I can about what I love. I have loved photography since I was lil and it truly is my passion as I hope it was and is each of yours. I am a beginner. I don't take money to do shoots. I don't do weddings. I do a bit of stock photography to help pay for my education and I hope to be able to meet some of you guys that I have put on pedestal. I am a newbie, I am not a professional YET! But I will be! I shot film before digital came out and played in the darkroom before computers came out. My kids grew up enough and I finally had time to go to school for what I have always loved. I was so naive to think that the people that I held in such high regard would love to help the next generation of photographers. At least it's looking like I was. I would love to shadow someone and learn from the best but I am not sure that I could live up to expectations after reading alot of these posts. I mean, I understand your frustration. I am working my butt off, going to school full time, homeschooling my teenagers and working just so I can get a degree and do what I love the right way. So many others believe they don't need a degree or an education, just pick up a camera and go running out, taking pictures. I don't fret though because when push comes to shove, I will succeed because I will have the education under my belt. Now I guess I am going to get it because so many people aren't going to like the fact that I'm going to school, or I will be bait for ones that believe they don't need an education, just a camera and a good eye, plus limited knowledge of composition and the technical aspect of photography. I love it. I love everything about photography. I love capturing something beautiful for my grandchildren to see one day. I love it when I get the composition right and the exposure is just so. I also love it when I can answer a technical question about why something works, what aperture is, what an f-stop is. Why ISO and shutter speed need to work together for low light pictures to turn out. I love all of it and I love learning it. I shoot everyday and on top of my classes I am constantly looking up new ways to photograph objects, people or scenes.

    I am also constantly looking up to you pros for direction and guidance. One day I hope that between formal education and the direction I receive from various other individuals with much more experience than myself that I will be one of the ones others come to. My question for everyone here is don't you think it would be more helpful to state how you think a new photographer should learn instead of just cutting them all down. Trust me, I understand. I am working my tail off for a degree that the next person down doesn't think they need so they go post a website and say hey.. I'm a pro. I get it. But you are already so far above that. Hundreds of us come here to read what you write. A lot of look up to you and want to learn from you. We can't go out and charge tons of money because we don't have your expertise. My big question is... how did each of you start out? Think back to when you didn't know all you do now. Remember what it was like to be the newbie.

    I am sorry if I have offended anyone because that truly wasn't my intent. I just want to remind you that everyone starts out somewhere.

    By the way.. I love your blog and I have been reading it for quite some time now.

    Searie

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  55. I think its fair to describe myself as photographer new to the Wedding Photography industry. I've been a photographer since 1987 learning everything I know on minolta manual cameras only recentley using a Nikon D70, and now a Canon 20D. I've shot three weddings so far mostly on film, and now have another two bookings which I will provisionally shoot 60/40 on digital and film. The phone and email has been very quiet for months so my reaction (apart from getting cross) is to improve my webiste, update my gear, be critical about my photography, explore diverse ways of advertising that dont break the bank. I have encountered the frustration of alleged businesses/media/advertising hubs which who all want me to pay them large sums in return for exposure in thier monthly magazine/booklet/resource/site...suffice to say all the ones I subscribed to have wasted over £300 of my money for no bookings, I just wanted to give you the heads up on that. Yellow pages has yielded one booking so far.
    There does seem to be great amount of competition, but to agree with what I read recentley, The emphasis and core motiovation needs to be quality, excellence, and satisfaction, over quantity and a fast buck.
    Thankyou for this blog, its great to hear the experiences of many experienced and informed photographers.

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  56. I'm a bride to be, not a photographer, but I have seen SO many photographers around the bridal show circuit, and there are some pretty bad ones. I can understand if some blurry pictures and heads cut off get into the mix, but why would a photographer put those on display as their best work?! I'm on a budget, but if I wanted awful or mediocre photos I could have my family bring disposables. Talented photographers should not fear; the cream rises to the top.

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  57. peter buondonno said...david i am a recently retired photographer ...my son who lives and photographs sports in pr and could not possibly benefit from my client list, took my advice and came to nj to spend some time with me, to learn the refinements of portrait and wedding photography...i firmly believe that all the people buying nice cameras, is the best thing that could happen to our profession...people see how easy it is to do a nice snapshot but how hard it is for them to do a nice portrait..i was always the highest priced in our area but always believed that i also gave the best value...we always had a ton of bad photographers around...they are being replaced by a new group semi-pros...

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  58. wow, I wasn't too worried until about two months ago but now enquiries and bookings are thinner than ever. My work is consistent and I have the same people skills that saw me throught the last ten years but something is different. I put it down to the explosion in photographer numbers, many of whom are good enough with a camera and have learnt all the shots at the speed of light off blogs etc. Unchartered waters for sure.

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  59. One can't over egg how times have changed for professional photographers. Stock photography, shooting for newspapers and journals, have all seen dramatic declines in job opportunities. These photographers are looking for work elsewhere, and the wedding photography industry is taking the excess. As stated, adding the number of part-time and new full-time photographers, some with others jobs or sources of income (retired policeman for example) and it's making the competition fierce. Ones sees the same pattern repeating with new entrants to the market spending big and talking up their success, only to disappear a few years later after greater loss than gain.

    The further expansion of trainers such as The Contemporary Photographic Course (now split to Catherine Conner and Annabel Williams) is even more worrying, as I don't see them delivering on the promises and aspirations they are giving to new wannabe photographers, in some cases those desperate for other or new sources of income. The drop out rate in our year was 50%, and then looking later at how those photographers had managed was even more disheartening, with the majority failing to make a reasonable living from photography, yet having made much greater financial outlay for expensive training.

    To now see Annabel Williams looking for potential new students in a tie up with Asda is shocking. Anyone entering the compeition should be aware of her marketing strategy upfront. Both Annabel and Catherine are very persuasive individuals, expect to find yourself struggling to resist their sales pitch.

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  60. Fact is, with the exception of the bespoke high end, professional photography is pretty much done for. There are plenty of industries that have disappeared over the years.

    Farming used to employ many workers to bring in crops by hand. With the advent of the combine harvester, this is no longer so. Here in the UK, shipbuilding used to be a major employer. With work having gone over seas, this is no longer the case, and as an industry it is a shadow of its former self.

    We (photographers) ultimately need to stop sitting around in hope that things will get better, because ultimately they won't. We need to become much more entrepreneurial, and in entrepreneurialism, one of the most important skills is being able to identify when something is just a bad business proposition that shouldn't be touched with a barge pole.

    My advice. If youre order book is good, carry on. If it isn't, get out now before it bankrupts you, because this is never going to get better.

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  61. We did the bespoke course at CPT (Contemporary Photographic Training) with Annabele Williams and Catherine Connor.
    We found it to be very poor value for money, with too much padding. The 'good' aspects to the course could be covered in a week (5 days), or by many other trainers at more realistic prices.
    But worst was some of the marketing ideas which we (and our business advisors) thought could be seen as misrepresentation if we had run them as suggested - it's not how we would want to do business (bait and switch competitions), and those that told us they tried the ideas had been disappointed with the results.
    You'd think from the marketing that every trainee became a successful photographic business, I think the reality couldn't be further from that.
    Anyone thinking of paying hard earned money to these or other trainers I would suggest you get references, not from the star/brand photographers that appear in their marketing, but take a whole entry list to a course 3 years prior, and phone every one (it would only take a couple of hours) and ask them if they would still recommend it.
    The problem for most photography businesses (other than far too many photographers with great websites and portfolios, and too many clients with good cameras and bargain hunting skills) is a lack of business and marketing skills, and this is where CPT fell short the most for us, we found much better elsewhere. By following the heard you have less chance of success, you will need to find your own niche.
    I won't be long before the photography trainers of this world move from training wedding and portrait photography, to teaching you how to run a photography training school - it's a far more profitable business to run, and far far easier to market.
    I understand CPT have now gone separate ways, and train under the names Aspire Photography Training and Annabel Williams.

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  62. Nice post this sort of content should be published time to time to spread the information. Keep posting best of luck.
    Regards

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  63. My concern is that many, if not most, of these new photographers that are appearing around us and cutting into the established studio's business are nothing more than hobbyist that have a 'dream' of becoming a Hollywood type photographer.

    Often, when they start in business they realize that all the fun and creativity is just a small part of the big picture. With this, they often get discouraged and quit doing professional work.

    Also, many of them do not properly set up a business. They fail to acquire proper licensing, and tax permits, leaving them vulnerable to audit and subsequent business closure. I think we will see more government intervention at least from the sales tax perspective as most of these photographers are pocketing the money and not paying taxes.

    In my opinion, if a photographer is not going through the same day to day hardships that I go through (paying sales and income taxes, being sure licensing is up to date), they are an 'illegal' business and should thus be dissolved.

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  64. Simple, If you think there are too many wedding photographers out there and it stinks, You are just not a very good photographer. Good photographers are not intimidated by pretenders.

    Get better at your craft and forget about how many others are out there. If you are truly good enough, you'll be turning weddings down because you're fully booked no matter what age you are.

    It's free enterprise people. That means it's every man and woman for themselves. Suck it up.

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  65. Very interesting post and thanks for the sharing.

    Fotógrafo de bodas....

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  66. Thanks for review, it was excellent and very informative.
    thank you :)

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  67. Wish I'd read this before paying for some very expensive photography training 3 years ago. Did a 1 year bespoke course (12 days tuition) and other additional training since then. Initially had some success but never enough to live on, did some good work, but the costs were high in relation to fees charged. Was networking with other pro photographers, and one by one they also were hanging up their dslr's. Trouble is I'd invested so much time and money, and the courses kept the candle burning - very motivational, considered the best in UK, but probably not all that concerned with the realities of their student's experiences. In our group, the majority were new to professional photography - willing to believe in and trust what the industry experts told them - after 3 years just over 90% have thrown in the towel. To think how much we'd all invested in time and money in just our group with just one training company. I doubt the next group did any better, nor those invested into other photography training courses. The professional bodies and training companies should be better advising new photographers of the realities of the market place and potential for failure. If I'd known 90% were likely to drop out I would never have committed the time and money.

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