Friday, January 29, 2010

"Are There Too Many Wedding Photographers Shooting Weddings These Days?" – Part 3

Good Afternoon Everybody,

Captured trucks I’m still reeling from seeing my book arriving yesterday. I get the feeling they are on the trucks and heading out to a book store near you.  We had a few more arrive this morning!

I was on the phone with Peachpit for over 30 minutes yesterday.  They had some great ideas on how to get the word out.  I liked their idea of an online Twitter Interview – sounds strange but fun.  Anyway, I’ll keep you posted as things begin to unfold and processes begin.

For the last two Fridays, I’ve posed the question, “Are there Too Many Wedding Photographers Shooting Wedding Photographs.”  Lots of you responded in the “Comments” section of the two posts – my thanks to all whom made the effort. 

The  insights and ideas presented by our DPT readers consisted of nearly 14,000 words and made the “Comments” section itself a solid resource for readers wanting to review the debate.

All that being said, where do I stand on the topic? 

Hit the “Read More…” link below for the rest of the story.

The current situation - Here is what I believe:

I Believe… that the low priced sub $1000 DSLR killed the “Golden Wedding Goose” for long standing studios in our profession.  I hear it everyday.  They’re just are not that many “Main Street” studios surviving these days.

Back in the day (of film), if you wanted to shoot weddings, the “Cost of Membership” was at least $5000 for a medium format camera, lenses, and flash gear. That was a deterrent to the someone wanting to shoot wedding part time and kept the number of new shooters at bay.

I Believe… that there is much less of a monetary commitment a photographer needs to make to the process of shooting a wedding for his/her client these days.  That fact alone has mushroomed the numbers of wedding photographers shooting today. And, resulted in driving the cost of weddings WAY down.

Back in the day, if you wanted to shoot a wedding, that meant that you were going to need to buy film and processing.  Most photogs in my area were spending , on average, about $350 of actual costs per wedding. I personally spent $1000 a week on film and processing to shoot a wedding.  Today that cost is FREE, FREE, FREE!!!

I believe… that there is much less of a monetary commitment needed by the buying public when it comes to buying wedding photography.  Because of the proliferation of cheap all the way to inexpensive pricing in the field, the client sees that as the norm these day.

I was just reading in Business Week this morning that some of the luxury products use a pricing procedure called “anchoring” to offer one product at a very high price so that the second tier product, still pricy, becomes the big seller.  Here is the link to the article right here.

What’s happened to the wedding profession is that the “PRICE” has been anchored to the bottom of the heap – i.e. the flea market wedding shoppers looking for rock bottom pricing for “professional photographic services” on Craig’s list.

I Believe… that the “Digital Age” itself has done much to reshape the wedding photography business.  All the new aspiring photographers can find free or very reasonably priced training anywhere on the internet.  My site DigitalProTalk, the Strobist, the Online Photographer, the Digital Photography School, et. al. have really revved up the enthusiasm for the profession.

Believe me, I think all that “easy to reach”information is a good thing.  I’m a web surfing junkie myself and love to bring the tid-bits I find to you, our DPT readers. Hey, it’s fun.

That enthusiasm has also encouraged many new photographers to “give it a go” in the profession.

So do I believe that there are too many photographers shooting wedding these days?  My answer – YES.  Now for the rest of the story. Are many of them making any money? – NO!

But you say, “I love shooting weddings.  What can I do?”  Lots of suggestions were given in the “Comments” section of the last two posts. 

Let me cover several more right here.

I Believe… we have to become adept at marketing with the new social media tools. 300 million Facebook members are surely connected out there.  You’ve got to get them to connect to you too.

I Believe… we need to constantly strive to build relationships with our favorite vendors in our communities.  It’s that cross-pollination that works to everyone's benefit in building business.

I Believe… you’ve got to constantly be looking for ways to add value to your wedding photography, value that the clients can readily see and make them want to choose you as their photographer.

I Believe… we can never “rest on our laurels” or become too complacent.  Even if you are an “established studio”, the fight to get the potential customer’s attention is more fierce than ever.  And that DEMANDS you take a more PRO-ACTIVE posture in your community.  You’ve got to be like a shark – keep moving, never stop promoting yourself!

I Believe… a lot of photographers are lousy sales/business people and settle for sales far less than they should.  That would include the “shoot and burners” out there and also those who simply post their images on-line and “spin the wheel of misfortune” hoping for a big sale. Hey, no sales effort in, no sales out!

I Believe… that you’ve got to be CONTANTLY striving to differentiate yourself from the competition.  You’ve also got to continue to “educate your clients as to what your differences are.  The bottom line is that these differences are clear discernable differences from the competition.

I Believe… It’s easy to be the the best wedding photographer in your area.  You’ve just got to work harder at it than the next person - your competition. You might ask, “If it’s so easy, why do I need to work harder?”  The answer is simple.  There are many, many lazy photographers who will settle for second best.  It doesn’t have to be you.

And finally-

I Believe… that when you shoot a wedding, you’ve got to bring your own sense of passion to the shoot.  You’ve got to give it 120% of your effort. You’ve got to leave a bit of your heart in every job.  That’s what can make your photography special, lasting, and in demand.

You know, Confucius had it right.  He said, “Those who think they can and those who think they can't are both right.”

Watch this short video interview with Will Smith.  He’s a guy with “Attitude” – the right kind of “Attitude.”


Have a great weekend everybody,  -David


Related Posts:

Post 1 - January 15: [link]

Post 2 - January 22: [link]


  1. Well said David! I really appreciate the time and effort you have put into these posts.

    I'm very confident that your words following the "
    I Believe..." statements are words of wisdom, no doubt.

    Especially these:

    I Believe… It’s easy to be the the best wedding photographer in your area. You’ve just got to work harder at it than the next person - your competition. You might ask, “If it’s so easy, why do I need to work harder?” The answer is simple. There are many, many lazy photographers who will settle for second best. It doesn’t have to be you.

    I Believe… that when you shoot a wedding, you’ve got to bring your own sense of passion to the shoot. You’ve got to give it 120% of your effort. You’ve got to leave a bit of your heart in every job. That’s what can make your photography special, lasting, and in demand.

    ....these are words we live by!

    OH....connecting with our vendors too, a big big part of our success.

    Thanks again for posting amigo!!!!


  2. Thank you for sharing Will's Wisdom. I've never seen it before and it was wonderful!

  3. Hi David
    I think you nailed it and I was so surprised not to see a single comment. Buy just maybe they are not willing to die for what they are doing. Great Post, love the ending. WOW!

  4. I want to add that the proliferation of mediocre and cheap wedding photographers is also having a huge impact on the child/family portrait business.

    When I first started out, it was rare that I received a request for files. Now I get it all the time -- and everyone wants them for a cut rate price. I can honestly say that as this continues, and people come to expect them, more of us will choose to close our businesses because you simply can't make enough money on that model, not for the amount of time we are putting in.

    I implore new photographers to price themselves accurately and stop giving away everything for nothing. Clients don't respect the art and the amount of time, energy and money that goes into this business unless we respect it ourselves.

    Thank you for posting such a thought provoking topic.

  5. Mr. Ziser,

    Perfectly written and I fully believe your words come from the heart as opposed to many writers out there from the wallet. I have admired your work for a long time and I have shooting weddings for 27 years, so have seen a lot of changes. Maybe my wife is right, the title should of read, " Are there too many people shooting weddings, WHO think they are photographers". I love your site keep the poss coming.

  6. "George Delgado said...

    Hi David
    I think you nailed it and I was so surprised not to see a single comment. Buy just maybe they are not willing to die for what they are doing. "

    Wait so wedding photographers that don't comment on this blog post are not willing to give their life for being a wedding photographer?

    There is a rap video parody in there somewhere.

  7. David, thank you for all you do to get this information to us. Thank you for sharing a part of yourself every day with us. I always look forward to reading your blog everyday!!

  8. David,

    Thank you for your insights on this topic of ever-increasing importance.

    Not much to comment on here, you've pretty much said it all.

    One thing I would like to point out is your allusion to our 'competitors.' I would just like to remind your readers of something I learned first from YOU: "We don't have competitors in this business... we have colleagues."

    Keep posting, we're listening!

    -The other Dave

  9. Part 1 of 2

    As you point out David, there is no doubt that a major revolution is occurring in the Wedding/Portrait Photography business these days. The downward pressure on prices for equipment and the lack of development/film processing costs has significantly lowered the barrier for new photographers to enter the field. This in and of itself is not a bad thing - but it does change the landscape of the market. We must understand the change that is occurring and adapt to it if we expect to survive as photographers.

    So many photographers are focusing on what they have lost in terms of pricing and control that they are unable or unwilling to see what is happening to the market. Let's look at this market for a moment. Consumers have come to expect ownership and quality for what they consider a reasonable price. Translation: They want quality shots, the files, the rights to those files and all at a fraction of the cost of traditional pricing models. So consumers are looking at quality, ownership and price. In the past our market has been constrained by the number of photographers in the wedding/portrait business. This lack of competition has allowed photographers to charge a premium for their services. Note that I said services and not photos - I will come back to this point in a moment. Consumers paid those premium prices because they had no choice. Now that there is an explosion of new photographers, their is intense competition and these new photographers are responding to the pent up demand from consumers. They are willing to meet the three major demands of counsumers (quality, ownership and price). Price and ownership are technically easy to compete on - while quality is not. We know that there is a great deal of skill and art involved in capturing the details of a wedding. The posts here on DPR are a testament to this fact, as each day David provides additional insight into the art of wedding photography. Consumers however do not always recognize this and are willing to pay for 'good' or 'good enough' but not 'great'.

  10. Part 2 of 2

    So what does all of this mean? Do traditional wedding/portrait photographers simply need to fold up shop? No! While I don't believe that the answer will be the same for all shooters I think there are a few things that we can all do to adapt to the change in our marketplace.

    First - we need to realize that we are not selling photographs. We are selling our time, expertise and knowledge. Anyone can show up at an event with great hardware and take uninspired photos that a segment of consumers will consider 'good enough'. The real value in hiring an experienced wedding photographer is their knowledge and experience. We know from experience the shots that people will want to see 5, 10 or 50 years from now. We know how to capture memories and convey experience and emotion. We don't take snapshots - we tell stories! Realizing that your value is not in the printed photographs or even the disc of digital ones is the first step that we must take as photographers.

    Second - we need to educate our clients on why they should value our expertise and experience (the quality demand of the consumer) more than they value their price demands.

    Third - we need to recognize that the market has changed forever. Premium pricing will have a place in this market but it will have to be justified by a recognized name and a stellar portfolio and not just because you are the only game in town. There is a tremendous demand for inexpensive, 'good enough' photography these days. There are plenty of new photographers who are willing to step in and meet this demand. We can't sit around and complain about it or demand that new photographers agree to charge some arbitrary amount so that our existing prices can appear competitive. In other markets that would be seen as collusion or price fixing (which I won't discuss here).

    The question is how we respond to the changing market. Those shops and independent shooters who respond to the market demands will thrive - but in different ways than in the past. I, personally intend to adapt to the market and find a way to make it work.

  11. I have briefly considered this, as well, but have pushed it aside as nonsense. However, the more I allow myself to think about it, the more worried I become. There aren't many professions where this is the case, either, but because this is an art, we have to work damn hard to stand out from the pack, therefore, putting us in the group of those who stand out from the pack. It's endless.

    I am just starting my career, and although this worries me, all I can do is continue to pursue my passion. Thanks for the thoughts.