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Top 10 Business Tips for Wedding Photographers from a Pro

10 min read

I’ve been in the wedding industry for around 15 years now, and some things have changed, but overall, wedding photography is about the same. I think back to when I started, and I want to kick myself for all the mistakes I made. If only back then had I understood that my business skills were more important than my photography skills. That’s right! You can take beautiful photos and still fail as a wedding photographer. On the other hand, decent photographers can succeed with business knowledge. That’s why I will share my top 10 business tips for wedding photographers.

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Tip #1: Form a real business, for real

If you want to run a wedding photography business, it needs to be a legal business. I know—mind-blown! So many people pick up a camera, though, and start taking money, and they aren’t a real business. 

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Creating a real business is important for several reasons. One, it shows you are serious and can be trusted. It’s a wedding. Who will you trust more, the legit business or your cousin’s best friend? Two, as a business, you are more protected if something goes wrong. For the most part, creating a business separates you from most legal issues. If something goes wrong, clients can go after the business, but not you. Third, it allows you to write off business-related purchases. All that expensive gear will reduce the amount of taxes you pay. Taxes? What’s that?

Tip #2: Pay your dang taxes

If you sell a product and make money, the government will want a chunk of it. Yes, it is possible to hide it from the government, but if you get caught, it’s really going to hurt. I know a few different photographers who didn’t pay taxes and ended up with a much bigger headache

The two main types of taxes are sales tax and income tax. You will collect sales tax from each client, but it is your responsibility. Income tax will work a little differently depending on your business structure, but generally, you will be paying taxes on all your sales. 

Tip #3: Use a CRM software

Running a business is hard, especially a wedding photography business. Most likely, you are the only one in the business, which means you have to do everything, and it’s hard to keep up with it all. That’s why you need Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software.

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A good CRM is going to help you keep track of all the things you need to be doing in your business, like leads, bookkeeping, workflows, emails, invoices, and contracts. I use 17hats, and it is a big help. Once I have created everything and set it up, the CRM will do the majority of the work for me. 

Tip# 4: Absolutely use contracts

Part of protecting yourself as a legal business is using contracts. It’s crucial for you and your clients to have a clear understanding of what’s expected, and that’s exactly what a contract does. This goes for paid work and model releases for any styled shoot. You need a contract!

Since it is a legal document, you’ll want to ensure you either get your contracts from a reliable source or have your lawyer review them. I know many wedding photographers go to the Lawtog to purchase contracts. 

Tip #5: Create email campaigns

A good CRM will allow you to send out contracts and help you create an email campaign. Wedding planning can be overwhelming, so trying to help your potential and booked clients is important. An email campaign is a great way to do this. 

I’ve got several email campaigns, but the overall purpose is to provide helpful information. The emails get sent out automatically over time, so once I create them, I don’t have to do anything. You’ll continue to stay in touch with your clients, and they will feel like you are a huge help!

Email campaigns can include helpful reminders of payment, welcome or preparation guides, and sales you may be running for products.

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Tip #6: Learn to do math (don’t worry, not trigonometry)

Creatives like wedding photographers don’t usually love math, but it is so important to running a business. I remember when I first started in photography, I was taking pictures at baseball games and trying to sell prints to the parents. I spent probably 20 hours taking photos at games and who knows how much on prints, all to make like $600. That was dumb. 

Get clients. Get paid. Get happy.

With all of your work, run the numbers to ensure you are making money. I see so many wedding photographers offering all-day coverage, a second shooter, an engagement session, and an album for $1500. After you’ve paid for the album and the second shooter, you will be lucky to make $1200. Then, when you break that down, it’s maybe $100 per hour, but that’s not considering the time to edit, the time you spent on meetings, and the cost of gear and other business expenses. 

Make sure to watch the ShootProof webinar on running your Cost of Doing Business.

Tip# 7: Try not to spend all your money on fancy equipment

Over the past 15 years, I’ve probably spent close to $5000 on lighting equipment alone. I kept thinking, “if only I get this, then things will be so much different.” While good gear does help, it’s not the most important thing in your business. Making money is, and you can’t do that if you’re spending it all on gear. 

Buy the gear you need and then stop spending money! This means a few camera bodies and lenses, flashes, batteries, and memory cards. That’s really about it! Then, keep them and use them for as long as you can. Don’t replace them when a new body is announced every year. 

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Marketing and Referral Tips for Wedding Photographers

I know the majority of these tips haven’t been that much fun. No one wants to think about all the things they can’t do and boring stuff like taxes. Those things are so important, but it’s also important to continually be getting new business. 

This is something I struggled with when I was brand new. I’d look at my photos and compare them to the popular photographers. Why were they getting so much more business? Why weren’t people reaching out to me? The problem was that I just magically thought people would find me because my work was good. Wrong! You have to take purposeful steps to get new business. 

Tip #8: Learn more about SEO and implement it

The first thing I did to start getting more attention and business was to focus on search engine optimization (SEO) for my website and blog. Basically, this involves doing things that will help you show up on Google when people are searching for a wedding photographer. I made thousands upon thousands with just this technique. 

I will say that SEO is involved and a longer process. It’s not something that you do one day, and then you are done. You need to first have the right structure on your website. Then, you need to be blogging regularly. After that, work on links from social media and other websites back to yours. Do all of that over and over again and you will start showing up on Google. 

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Tip #9: Build relationships in the wedding industry

Another free way to get your name out there and more business is to connect with other wedding vendors. People like to work with people they know and trust so that they will tell couples about you. 

There are a few ways to make these connections. The easiest is do your job well, and be friendly. When you’re shooting a wedding, make sure to be helpful and kind and think about the other vendors. Another way is to reach out directly to people you want to work with. Ask if you can help in anyway, meet up for coffee, or do a styled shoot together. In some cases, there are wedding vendor groups. Get in there and make connections

Tip# 10: Consider paid ads on social media

This is the most recent strategy I have been using, but it has helped me book weddings in places like Florida, St. Louis, Kansas City, and Oklahoma with people that I never would have met typically. 

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The first thing to know is that ads cost money, but they are worth it in the long run if done correctly. I’d spend $200 to book $4000 any day! The second thing is ads take time to understand. Not all ads are going to work, and it’s a process. Specific images and text are going to work, while others won’t. The last part is the booking. Just because you get a lead doesn’t mean they will book you. You need to build a relationship and figure out how to help them. 

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Running a wedding photography business is challenging. Most either fail or quit within five years. Don’t let that be you! Do what you must to protect yourself, make the process easier, and book more couples, and you’ll do great things! It’s well worth it !