Friday, January 22, 2010

Are There Too Many Wedding Photographers These Days - Part 2

Good Afternoon Everybody,

We had a great "temple" shoot yesterday and got some great images of our handsome Bar Mitzvah boy.  I love doing these mid-week shoots because you're not constrained on time. 

Clay and DAZ Well, that's about half true.  The family still is on schedule with all the weekend activities, Rabbi has another meeting, you get the idea.  But, it's still not quite the rush wedding photogs have on a wedding day and the slower pace gives me a chance to really do something special for my client.

Last evening we also got together with Clay Blackmore, one of the finest wedding photographers and teachers in the country. We had a great visit.  Clay is presenting at our state convention today and everyone is really enjoying his program – I know, I'm in the back of the room myself;~)  Maybe we can get him to do a podcast for DPT in the near future.

Hey gang, today I want to continue the conversation I started last Friday.  That post [link] has turned out to be the most popular posts to date here at DPT. There were so many great comments - I invite you to read them all.  They provide a lot of solid insight into the state of our industry. Let's get right to it.

Hit the “Read More…” link below to read more about:

Are There Too Many Wedding Photographers These Days - Part 2

Are There Too Many Wedding Photographers These Days - Part 2

Gloom - iStock_000002680448XSmall In addition to all the comments that were posted last week, let me add a few more garnered from my interviews last week.  Hey, it still looks kind of bleak for the wedding photographer these days from what I'm reading.

  • It's impossible for a photographer to gross $200,000 or even $100,000 in the wedding business these days.

  • Wedding photography does not hold the prestige it once did. It's not elite anymore.

  • It's a lot harder to have a good reputation stand out these days. People really are settling for second best or cheap.

  • The concept of a good wedding photographer is completely diluted these days.

  • The customers are willing to settle for far less that they used to.

  • It's harder than ever to book a wedding these days.

  • Business used to come to us, not anymore.  We have to work a lot harder these days to get the customers to come to us.

  • Brides, not parents are booking the wedding these days and price, not quality is the only criteria.

  • There's a big discrepancy in wedding pricing these days.  From free on Craig's list to several thousand dollars by some of the top studios.

  • Lots of brides claim they have a friend that can shoot their wedding.

  • Cameras are smart enough to produce acceptable images with for a photographic with limited photography skills.

  • And a lot of photographers are "under-serving" the bride.

There you have it - another set of comments that spell doom and gloom for our profession. You know, what's being said here is very much true.  The secret is to know what to do in this situation.  How can the studios having such problems really turn things around?

My Ace #1 assistant, Nicholas, who is working on his own part time business here in Cincy was pretty discouraged by what he read.  I encouraged him to hang in there.  There really is "light at the end of the tunnel."

Next week, I promise, will show the other side of the coin - a brighter, shinier side.  The entire paradigm of wedding photography has changed, and it has changed overnight.  I sitting here at our state convention and the people that used to come here year after year have not been her the last two years, so these comments truly reflect the reality of the situation.

We need to completely rethink how we do things in our profession these days. We have to throw out everything we known over the years, especially we "more seasoned" pros and redefine and rebuild our concept of wedding photography from the ground up if all of us want to compete and be successful in this profession.

The "End Is Not Near".  It's really a "New Beginning" right around the corner for photographers who love and enjoy this business and what to make decent living from a terrific profession.

More next week, gang.


That's it for me today, everybody.  I've got to pack the gear for my shoot this evening.  So, I saying "Over and Out" for today.  I'll plan to see everybody next Monday, same time, same place.

Have a great weekend, and I'll see you then,  -David


  1. David,

    I agree with you 'silver lining' approach and look forward to your post next week.

    I had to shut down operation between 2007 and 2010 and am just getting back into the game. What I can say is the landscape has definitely changed! However, change isn't bad, it's just different.

    The onset of and ever-increasing number of newbies is a boon to any who pay attention. Why? Simple - they're coming at this profession from a completely different point of view... and some of them are doing REALLY well at it! That means if you've been here a while and decide to dig in and stagnate, you'll be buried. BUT, if you decide to open up and listen, you just might learn something from the newbies that you never would have profited from had you not been exposed to them.

    Beyond that, more and more horror stories are coming about from some of the newbies that 'jump the gun' and get in over their heads too quick... this is sad for the brides and grooms that get burnt, but it provides an increasing level of awareness from a client's perspective and this is GOOD for a seasoned pro, regardless of age!!!

    All the best!
    -The Other Dave

  2. We are doing fine but we don't know why.

    We are on Facebook but we do not Facebook images, we have a Blog but we do not Blog images. We do not Twitter about anything.

    We do not have a shoot and burn package nor do we include an album or the digital files in our package.

    We do not try to make every one of our clients into fashion models.We make sure that each couple has great formal images after the ceremony.

    We are in the middle price range in our market. We have not raised our prices in three years.

    I am over 50 years of age and my wife is approaching that age. We do not try to act hip or young or sophisticated. We are genuine and friendly, but we don't try to make our clients into our closest friends or family.

    We treat our competitors with respect, we do not try to make ourselves into know-it-all experts for new photographers to emulate. We do not teach seminars or hold workshops or invent gadgets or sell actions.

    And we are surrounded by young, pretty, handsome, clever, web- connected, hip, popular, savvy photographers in every price range.

    7 years ago I started from nothing and now we have had two
    (low) 6 figure years and are anticipating a third one this year.
    This is our only source of income. We could be poster children for how NOT to do it and still succeed.

  3. Hello Dave, Thank you so much for the time and energy you spend to supply us with this great site. I am hooked. I am not a wedding photog but have had thoughts of taking on the challenge. I do not think I am quite ready. But anyway had to make a few comments, I believe in any service business customer service is above and beyond anything you can do. Sure you have to produce a good product but customer service very important. I have come across many professionals in many professions who are extremely good at what they do but are terrible with their customers. The best thing one can do for their business it to take a course in how to handle people and in customer service. I come from an industry which is very competitive, I worked for the leader in that industry they became the largest based only on customer service and satisfaction. They train their employees very extensively in customer service and bend over backwards to make and keep a customer. My niece is getting married this spring ( I won't be shooting her wedding) her mother called me and asked me for things to look out for when they interviewed photographers. After they chose the photographer I asked her why she picked that particular one, she said, he seemed to communicate well was very polite and understanding and was whiling to accommodate our needs, and by the way he has a nice portfolio. Wow, IQ was last on the list. Any how, thanks again for the great place to learn, and maybe some day I will shoot some weddings.

  4. I'm heading to a bridal fair tomorrow, and am interested to feel out the mood there. I am a new professional photographer, but I do not specialize in weddings. I understand the sentiments related here, though, and am working to establish my business as a studio which provides fine timeless images that will be considered artwork by their owners. I am also steering clear of the under-servicing bandwagon.

    I really appreciate Paul's comment...actually, I'd love to hear what Paul is doing to keep a significant income rolling in while breaking all the trendy rules.


  5. As for me, I do not plan on shooting just weddings. I want to master my camera and flash but not necessarily master one specific market. I want to be well-rounded enough that I can cater to a variety of people (i.e. maternity sessions, newborns, family portraits, seniors, pets, corporate portrait headshots, etc.).

    I'm just starting out and I had my first paid gig this past Thursday... I was nervous... this was for Corporate Headshots for a website! I didn't even THINK about this market at all, it literally fell in my lap through word of mouth advertising! Do NOT forget to Thank your friends for their help! There's other ways of making money in photography, not just Weddings! :)

    Getting back to the Wedding Industry, I can't see how someone can survive on solely doing weddings in a small town/city/market?

    I think you have to be flexible and adapt to the changes....and also, you have to make it fun for yourself...if you haven't been enjoying photography for years, I say to you that it may be time to re-evaluate yourself, cause if you aren't happy , you aren't rendering the best. Also, it's good to know how the market is changing but don't waste too much time being bitter about it...

    I honestly cannot say much about it all since I have only done one wedding, as a second shooter...I was not paid and I even gave some of my images to the "Paid" photographer so that she could use them in the brides wedding album! I didn't want to be compensated but I also didn't take business away from the paid photographer but rather, tried to help her. I didn't offer anything to the bride, didn't bring any business cards to pass around...I was strictly there to learn without getting in the way sort of speak. I know when it's time to step up and take advantage of certain situations and this was not mine to take!

    Anyway, I'm anxious to hear from everyone keep the posts coming my photography friends!! :)

  6. short and sweet today.. David I love your positive attitude and that is what brings us all back for more. Thanks for being you!

  7. Hi there David, Thanks so much for a great blog. Thanks also for sharing so much info, it is so much appreciated.

    for starters, I must say that I am one of the newbies on the block. I shot my first wedding last year in April for friends using a Canon 350 D, the EF 50mm 1.8 lens and also the kit lense I got with the camera and lastly, a Sigma EF 530 DG ST flash. I also chose to offer my services to my friends free of charge, simply because I didn't have a wedding portfolio and wanted to get into the wedding photography industry.

    I started with photography 3 years ago and my passion has grown. Everything I have learned and am still learning is through the internet. I've followed the advice and tutorials of people that I have come to admire very much. A couple of them have shared way more than most and to them I am very greatful. David, you are one of them who I am constantly learning from. Thanks for sharing your knowledge.

    I live in Cape Town, South Africa. Two years ago, I approached a well seasoned pro wedding photographer who has really made a success of his buisness nearby where I live. I sat down with him to chat about wedding photography and even offered to be a second shooter for him, but it never happened. I was willing to earn my stripes and to grown into the business by serving others.

    After I got the "cold shoulder" from the pro, I decided to just go for it and learn as much as I could through the internet on my own.
    Last year in May, I bought a very well priced Canon 40D with the 17-85mm IS USM lens which I feel is a big step up from the 350D which I used to shoot my first wedding.

    In November last year, I was asked by a dance studio to shoot a full blown dance show on stage with no flash allowed and in varying low light conditions. I accepted the gig and did lots of research and practiced a lot with my camera. On the day of the shoot, I hired the Canon EF 24-70mm f2.8L USM lens which helped me out immensely. I learned a lot and my client was overjoyed by the images I gave her. Quite a few people who attended the show, ordered prints off my website. The woman in charge wants me to shoot the next show this year again.

    Last weekend I shot my second wedding and again, I hired the EF 24-70mm L IS USM lens and I had such a wonderful time. Again, I did not charge for the wedding, but the bride and groom were so happy with my photos that they felt that they had to give me something for what I did for them.

    Last year, I approached by a very well known bridal magazine to advertise through their website. In the six months that I was on there, I got lots of referrals, but not one booking for a wedding. I then phoned them and cancelled my advertising with them. After that, I started a Facebook page and linked up with lots of friends. Since I got my phhotography page up on Facebook, I've begun to move ahead quicker than advertising through the wedding website I tried out.

    Why I've shared all of this with you all is because I am one of the newbies on the block who is absolutely passionate about photography and working with people. I found that even if it is working with kids or with adults, I just love to be able to make them feel relaxed and important and to serve them. That way, I've found that people are getting more than just someone who is shooting images for them.

    I'm willing to learn even more and adapt. I know that there is so much more coming.

    I'll be shooting my third wedding in April this year and another one in May, so I know that if I continue to persevere, great things will come of it.

    Thanks David for allowing me to share my thoughts and feelings with you all.

  8. Paul M,

    Interesting comment, but how do you get your business? Do you advertise extensively?
    Word of mouth?

    Tom Kostes

  9. tom and all,

    We get asked that question a lot. Frankly, we don't know for sure.

    Here is what we have done. Your mileage may vary.

    We spend about 5% of our gross sales on marketing each year.

    We have an ad on the Knot that costs us quite a bit each month, but we almost never get a direct inquiry form it. We also have a free listing on WeddingWire. So far we have only booked one wedding from it.

    We have a website and a blog like everyone else.

    We do have displays at several wedding shows in our metro area. We can honestly say we get several bookings from each show. We have tried many different types of displays over the years. All we can conclude is that bigger images are better, they command more respect and attention.

    We have a good relationship with one popular wedding venue where we have an album. We have two other albums out at other venues and this sometimes gets us calls but seldom a booking.

    We seldom photograph a wedding in our local town.... no one seems to know us here.

    We answer every phone call without letting it go to the answering machine. We answer every email inquiry within two hours, even if we are already booked for their date.

    We get a wedding online in 7-10 days....

    Somehow this has gotten us enough recognition that the bookings keep coming. Tonight I just booked another wedding, the 7th in five days.