Getting started in photography is not difficult. All you really need is a camera of some kind and you can get out there and start taking pictures. While that may leave you with a long road ahead to get where you want to get, it can’t be denied that just using any camera is technically a “start” in photography.
I have found that many people getting started in photography haven’t really thought about what doing photography or videography as a job actually means. What is a day, or a week in the life of a photographer actually like? Is it like a 9 to 5 waking up every morning and grinding through a workday? Or is it more sporadic with periods of intense work followed by days off? It all depends on the type of photographer you want to be.
Wedding photography is a very common one that people choose to go after because it is a weekend job. The thing is wedding photographers are a dime a dozen. There is large quantity of low level photography with barely any differential in ability and you’ll have to figure out how to fight your way through that mess to make it.
It’s gotten to the point where few people can make money doing wedding work because the standard is too low. In order for industries to work there has to be a standard of performance that customers want. Right now there is a huge excess of photographers with a low standard which means there is a huge excess of low paying wedding photography jobs.
The first thing someone needs to do to get started is educate themselves on art and photography. At least learn a little bit about what is possible so you can set your goals somewhere. Does that mean browsing the internet and looking at photos there? Maybe. But a better way to learn would be to see actual wedding photos and not whatever is out on the internet which is often styled shoots. There is a huge difference in the tone and difficulty between real customers and professional models. One of the big challenges of being a wedding photographer is dealing with normal people and making them look good. If all your influences are photos of models you’re going to be shocked by the difficulty level when you finally work a real wedding.
Getting out there and doing the work is important too and maybe you’ll start out at a lower rate in order to gain experience but you should be able to move up to a higher rate after a few dozen weddings shot. The key thing with that is not to get ahead of yourself. Keep going with what is working and keep learning until you really and truly understand how to do the job. Then you can confidently offer weddings for a real price point like $5,000 per wedding.
It’s important to keep in mind that most of the businesses that don’t charge a lot for weddings are not hiring real photographers! They’re hiring people like you who are either trying to learn the job, or they’re hiring part-timers who don’t earn a living off of photography. Earning a living off of wedding photography and doing wedding photography are two completely different things. It’s very common for many wedding photographers to actually be pretty darn bad at photography and especially wedding photography because they never took the time to really learn what it is. But, they get away with it because their rates are so low. Customers aren’t that stupid, they know that when they pay $999 for a full wedding day that they’re getting a bargain. A photographer on a job like that will be lucky to get $500, most get paid less. Just remember, weddings don’t happen everyday of the week, they’re mostly a weekend thing (99% are on the weekend). Imagine trying to live on $500 a week? How are you going to pay rent, buy food, own a car, a proper outfit, and a bunch of expensive camera gear?
In closing, photography isn’t an easy job and wedding photography in particular is difficult because of the huge number of photographers trying to get into it. Many people will say just get out there and do it. Well, I beg to differ. I think people need to take the time to learn the art first. For hard core capitalists who only care about running their big business selling McDonalds level garbage I guess that is fine. If you want to be the photography equivalent of a burger flipper then go ahead and do that. Maybe it’ll work for you. But if you want to be a true photographer who understands the job and what is possible then take the time to learn something about the art before hand. There’s really no point in doing any of this if you aren’t going to commit to learning it all.
Check out some of courses and up your photography game so you can up your prices: