How To Kill Your Wedding Business

As I continue my retirement from news photography and do much more special events work and assisting as a second shooter on weddings, I subscribe and read a lot of wedding photographer’s blogs and comments on Facebook.

I am always looking for new ideas and examples of great photography to incorporate into my own work. That’s one of the reasons I’m a member of my community camera club here in Oakville.

One of the worrisome trends I see online is the propensity for some professional photographers to publish all the gory details of interactions with clients which have gone horribly wrong.

Here’s a cautionary case in point (and I am not going to link to the online “Open Letter” as I’ve sent the author an email suggesting she might wish to immediately take it down before her own words do more damage to her business than the antics of her unhappy clients).

Seems our wedding photographer (who BTW is a very good wedding photographer and has over 10 years of experience) has in her contract that full resolution images are not released until the client has paid for their wedding album.

Those of you in the business know the selling of wedding albums is one of the ways professional wedding photographers make their money.

Figure it out: If a wedding photographer realizes $2,000 per wedding (which for some brides is an enormous sum and for some others less than the flower arrangements. It pays working pros to be careful who they court as clients!) and they do 50 weddings per year then they’re grossing $100,000 a year. Not bad.

By the time they’ve paid their taxes, professional fees, upgrade their equipment overtime, paid their transportation and fuel costs they’re down to let’s guess $65,000. Now if they’ve been engaging a second photographer their profits take a 35 to 40 per cent hit.

(BTW estimates suggest most wedding photographers make less than $35,000 annually for the first few years. Those who stick it out and who are any good learn how to charge more for their work by adding value – like a wedding album – can make $50,000 or so but few rise above this level. Sure some of the best charge tens of thousands for their work (and are kept busy doing high-end weddings) but they constitute less than one per cent.

So when it comes to pricing, successful wedding photographers factor in their time editing and enhancing the images in PhotoShop and then building an album and adding other products and services to the package.

If they give their high-resolution edited images to the client, then there’s no incentive for the client to order an album from the photographer. Low-rent clients can take those edited images and paste them into their own amateur album (or worse: a badly built album done in China) for next to nothing.

A well-designed wedding album should become a family treasure and it protects the images and the memories of this most important day forever.

A dispute with a client (who clearly was ignoring the contractual agreement they had signed or hadn’t read it) over the high-res edited images should never end up on TV (which this one did) and if so, not repeated on the photographer’s wedding site.

Dumb and a career-limiting reaction by someone who is clearly hurt but who hasn’t learned yet what it takes to be a professional photographer.

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The Creative At Work

Kevin Patrick Robbins (that’s him in the photo)¬†thinks of himself as a “creative”.photographer-Kevin-Patrick-Robbins

It’s just very convenient for the rest of us that he expresses his creativity by shooting photos. And it was these photos that he brought with him last night to the Oakville Camera Club.

The Oakville Camera Club is a very very neat camera club. They get 75 to 100 people out to meetings! Many camera clubs would be envious to get that many people out in a year but the Oakville club does it every two weeks.

The OCC isn’t a club of pros even though they’ve got a smattering of pro shooters, the vast majority fall into two camps. One is advanced amateur (and some of these folks shoot better than the pros) and new amateur photographers (who are eager to learn how to take better vacation pictures or shots of the Christmas tree).

This huge diversity of talent means there’s something here for everyone regardless of how new or old (that’s me) are in photography.frontpage

To get back to our presenter Kevin Robbins is no equipment junkie. He shoots with a Canon 6D which is Canon’s entry class camera in the full-frame world. Kevin tends to shoot a lot with a $200 50 mm lens and does own the very expensive Canon 70-200 f/2.8 zoom which he finds shoots soft images. (Zooms will always shoot soft when compared to prime lenses.)

His no-name lighting kit he got off the Internet for under $500 and mostly he uses a 48′ Westcott softbox and those cheap Internet monolights.

So it’s not his equipment that makes the difference. It’s the fact that he’s a “creative” that does it. Kevin solves IMG_0407communications problems for his clients who range from magazine editors to business people and even politicians.

We were very lucky to have spent a night in the company of this very new (He’s been a pro for less than two years) but very creative photographer.

If you’re near Oakville and you love photography why not join us? And if you’re not near Oakville, go support your local club.

It’s a great night out when you can get guest presenters like Kevin. Go check out his site.

Don’t Stand On The Tracks

This is going to seem amazingly obvious but don’t take photos with your subject standing on the railway tracks.

Now you’d think this would be okay if you’re a professional photographer and your model is a professional model and there aren’t any trains around?

Well apparently it’s not okay.

In the last months of reading photo blogs and articles in magazines and newspapers I’ve read scores of reports of people being injured or killed while taking part in photo shoots that include railway tracks and eventually a railway train.

Today’s National Post has a story about a 37-year-old model and actor who didn’t step off the tracks to avoid an approaching train despite the train’s engineers attempt to alert him by blowing the train’s horn.

A train’s horn is a loud alerting device. it didn’t work this time as speculation has it that the model may have thought the train was coming down a parallel track. Well it wasn’t and he’s dead.

This is a matter of being stupid….okay, well it is but it’s the kind of stupid that we all do. Oh I can hear you from now saying that wouldn’t happen on my shoot. And I say to you, that’s the same thing that everybody else said on their shoot. Except the big difference is somebody got hit and died.

Here’s how you avoid getting hit by a train. Don’t stand on or near the tracks.

If you’ve got to get a shot of receding railway tracks pick an unused set of tracks out in the country where you can see for miles up and down the track line. If you’re wrong about your choice you’ve got plenty of time to call off the shoot.