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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